Citation Cartels

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Colin Wright:

""Citation cartels represent a growing concern in academic circles, where the integrity of scholarship is compromised by networks of researchers artificially inflating citation counts. These networks, also known as “citation rings,” strategically boost the visibility and perceived impact of specific research domains, as well as the reputations and academic metrics of those involved.

Domingo Docampo, a mathematician at the University of Vigo, has recently revealed how certain institutions, notably from regions with little historical prominence in mathematics like China and Saudi Arabia, have surged ahead in terms of producing highly cited papers. This stark rise is attributed to internal citations among papers from a small number of institutions in these countries, suggesting a concerted effort to manipulate citation counts.

The problem of citation cartels extends beyond individual disciplines and affects global academic rankings and the distribution of research funds. Universities and researchers driven by the pressure to climb international rankings or secure funding are tempted to engage in these unethical practices. The consequences are profound, misleading stakeholders about the true quality and impact of research and diverting resources from deserving scholars to those engaged in manipulative practices.

Recently, though perhaps unsurprisingly, citation manipulation has been discovered within the field of gender medicine. This was revealed in a systematic review investigating the emergence of guidelines for pediatric sex trait modification procedures, euphemistically known as “gender-affirming care.” In fields like medicine, where the stakes are high, the presence of citation cartels is particularly alarming, because boosting flawed research on the supposed benefits of body modifying and often sterilizing hormones and surgeries produces real-world harm."