Academia has popularity contests, too. And sometimes they’re rigged. The Journal of Vibroengineering in December retracted three papers after becoming suspicious that one of the authors had convinced other researchers to cite his work. A lot. According to the journal, Magd Abdel Wahab, of Ghent University in Belgium, last year misused his position as chair of an international meeting to garner dozens of citations of his own papers in articles that subsequently appeared in a compendium of the presentations. If true, that would be a glaring case of citation manipulation, in which researchers try to boost their standing among their peers by inflating the importance of their work. (Author’s note: If you link to this item, I’ll say something nice about you on Twitter.)
Wahab objected, saying the spike in citations was an “innocent mistake.” And, in the absence of a smoking gun proving otherwise, the publisher agreed to republish the articles along with a letter expressing concern about the articles.