Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Journal stops asking authors to stack citations following Retraction Watch post

with 8 comments

After we flagged a journal that was asking authors to cite the journal in order to boost its impact factor, the journal’s website has now removed the request from its author information page.

We noted on February 9 that the Thammasat International Journal of Science and Technology‘s author information page had a helpful suggestion:

Please kindly give some citations related to your written article from any articles published in TIJSAT in order that the TIJSAT’s impact factor can be raised to a higher level.

A few days later, we received a comment that appeared to come from the journal’s email address, saying it had to “give up the suggestion.”

We reached out to the journal to ask if it was, in fact, changing its policy, and have not yet heard back. Meanwhile, that sentence has since been removed from the author information page. We will update if we hear anything more from the journal.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

Written by Cat Ferguson

February 23rd, 2015 at 11:30 am

Comments
  • Zonderpaard February 26, 2015 at 9:45 am

    For years, the Transportation Research Board (part of the NAS) has encouraged authors to stack citations from the Transportation Research Record. Here are the guidelines for last year (2014); see page 8.

    http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/AM/PeerReview.pdf

    Perhaps they ought to hear from you as well!

  • JATdS February 26, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Requesting authors to stack citations is one half of the problem. Another problem is the use of pseudo IF metrics, or what Jeffrey Beall aptly terms “misleading metrics” (http://scholarlyoa.com/other-pages/misleading-metrics/). And a third problem is the advertising of old IFs to mask the fact that a journal has lost an IF. One such case is the Turkish Journal of Botany (TJB), published by the Turkish Government, TUBITAK. Until early February, 2015, the TJB top page showed a 2012 IF, which gave the impression that it was still with a current IF, as listed/indexed in Thomson Reuters’ JCR/ISI. Thus, although a little outdated, the web-site did not give, at first impression, the notion that anything was wrong. After I submitted a manuscript there, I was alerted by a colleague that the TJB had lost its 2013 IF. In other words, it was advertising an old (2012) IF, to give the false impression to readers and would-be authors, that they still had a valid IF. This is actually very serious, because access to Thomson Reuters’ JCR data-base is behind a pay-wall and thus the general public cannot independently verify such cases and facts. Clearly irritated by this situation, I withdrew the paper immediately, and launched a formal complaint to the Editor-in-Chief. Sometime in the past 3 weeks, the top page of the journal was wiped clean of this clearly misleading (IMO) information. I wish to publicly deposit the formal response (at the bottom of my comment*) that was provided to me by the EIC, Prof. Asim KADIOĞLU, of Karadeniz Technical University.

    For RW readers, please compare the current web-page:
    http://journals.tubitak.gov.tr/botany/index.php

    With the web-page existent on 28 January 2015 (as archived on the wayback machine):
    http://web.archive.org/web/20150128154712/http://journals.tubitak.gov.tr/botany/index.php

    I believe that we have the responsibility of documenting all such cases publicly, because if we try to understand the why, or how, of a retraction, or a retraction policy, we also have to understand the background of the journal, editors and publishers. Retractions do not take place in isolation and so documentation of such cases at sites like RW can serve as an important repository until more definitive documents can be produced (e.g., case studies).

    * “On Wednesday, February 4, 2015 4:29 PM, Asim Kadioglu wrote:
    Dear Dr. Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva

    Unfortunately, Thomson Reuters has announced that the Turkish Journal of Botany was found to have a high rate of self-citation in 2013; for that reason, the journal will be under review for a year and will not appear in the 2013 Impact Factor list. We used to urge our colleagues to check TJB to see if they could cite any papers from it. Possibly this is partially responsible for this high level of self-citation. Needless to say a 70% self-citation rate is high but JCR does not realise that at least 40% of it is naturally coming from TJB authors who mostly publish in TJB and mostly publish plant systematics / flora papers, which automatically results in self-citations. We have informed JCR about this (and many other factors including the free open access feature and the long history of TJB) and are hoping this problem will be solved next year. TJB is still indexed in the Web of Science and other Thomson Reuters databases as you can see from the following statement (from JCR website) http://admin-apps.webofknowledge.com/JCR/static_html/notices/notices.htm#2013_data_release: “Coverage of these journals in Web of Science and other Thomson Reuters products is not immediately affected by suppression from the JCR, however, the titles may be subject to review to determine if they continue to meet the quality and publication standards necessary for inclusion in Web of Science”. If JCR calculated the 2013 impact factor for TJB, it would be little above 2 and around 1.4 excluding self-citations (http://www.scimagojr.com/journalsearch.php?q=17821&tip=sid&clean=0 ).

    With best wishes

    Prof. Dr. Asim KADIOĞLU,
    Editor-in-Chief, Turkish Journal of Botany”

    • JATdS February 26, 2015 at 5:19 pm

      Incidentally, this journal, TJB, had only has a two-year IF, one for 2011 and one for 2012. In 2011 it was 1.991 and in 2012, it was 1.600 (but 0.747 and 0.432, respectivey without self-cites). To give RW readers a relative idea, the 2011 IF was probably higher than most plant science journals that had been publishing for several decades. The war in publishing is going to take place here, at this junction, between the gaming of the IF, and the tug-of-war between the publishers to see which authors they can attract using whatever means possible. When this nonsense gaming system is in place, there is no wonder we see scientists abusing the system, leading to further militarization of systems like online submission systems, etc. The cycle is as vicious as it can get.

  • JATdS February 26, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    This must be my unlucky day. Soon after I had reported the TJB case above at RW, I received news that a journal to which I had submitted a paper, is advertising an old, misleading IF on its top page. The journal in question is Plant Biosystems, published by Taylor and Francis.

    This is the e-mail I just sent the EIC and editor board:

    “Dear Professor Carlo Blasi,
    Department of Plant Biology, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy
    Editor-in-Chief, Plant Biosystems
    Taylor and Francis
    http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=editorialBoard&journalCode=tplb20#.VO-f6sv9nIU

    CC: the entire editor board
    BCC: academic-related authorities

    I wish to lodge a formal complaint about your journal, which is advertising an old (2012) impact factor (IF) on the top web-page, but not the 2013 IF score:
    http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tplb20#.VO-hCsv9nIV

    When we submitted a manuscript to your journal in 2014, we were under the impression that your journal still had a valid IF. Much to our horror, we have just learnt, now that we have just completed the revision of the manuscript, that your journal lost its IF and has been advertising the old, invalid IF for months now.

    As you know, many countries employ the IF to evaluate their scientists, and even though I am personally against the IF, because scientists and publishers game and abuse it, there are many scientists who have no choice but to subscribe to this system which forms the base of their national systems, as occurs in China, Iran, India and many other countries. They cannot escape this tyranny.

    Consequently, knowing of this intricate link between the IF and author submission, you have clearly abused the trust of the plant science community by misrepresenting the IF of your journal, purposefully, to trick scientists into thinking that your journal still has a valid 2013 IF. Unfortunately, as you know well, many scientists do not have access to the Thomson Reuter’s JCR web-site and IF scores that lie behind its paywall and must rely completely on the honesty and truth of the publisher and its journal’s web-site.

    There is no doubt in my mind that both Plant Biosystems and Taylor and Francis have acted in a highly predatory and dishonest manner, and have abused the plant science community for months. In doing so, you have undoubtedly attracted hundreds of manuscripts and scientists to your journal who, had they known – if you had clearly displayed up-to-date and honest information on your journal’s web-site – that you did not have a 2013 IF, would have no doubt submitted their papers to other journals with a valid IF.

    I request that you immediately:

    a) Withdraw our manuscript from peer review. You have in essence wasted our valuable time and we have now to turn to an honest publisher and journal with an honestly displayed and correct 2013 IF. Who will compensate us for our lost time, resources, and human effort?

    b) Remove the misleading and old 2012 IF information from your top page and indicate, very clearly, that you have lost your IF, from what appears to be excessive self-citation, also indicating to the plant science community that you have NO 2013 IF.

    c) Issue a public apology for misleading the plant science community for many months. Very unfortunately, Taylor and Francis has a smart system in place that prevents its web-sites from being trawled by Google bots and thus there is no way to verify exactly, through the wayback machine, for how many months you have been misleadng the community and gaining authorship unfairly.

    For your reference, I will public expose and denounce this clear scandal, and will be posting at Retraction Watch, where just a few hours ago, I publicly exposed the same shenanigans by the Turkish Journal of Botany:
    http://retractionwatch.com/2015/02/23/journal-takes-citation-manipulation-suggestion-off-author-info-page/#comments

    In addition, I will be publishing a case study about at least these two journals, so that a historical document exists about how the plant science community has been duped, abused and cheated by these specific journals and their publishers. When publishers like Taylor and Francis impose “ethics” on the authorship, but then apply a contrasting set of rules when it comes to journals’ honesty, then we have serious reason to be concerned about the integrity of the publishing system, which has now clearly and irrevocably become corrupted.

    Please feel free to comment publicly at Retraction Watch and explain your policies to me and to all else who will become aware of this scandal, which automatically implicates the entire high-tier editor board which is cumplicit in staying slent about this dishonest policy.

    Sincerely,

    Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva”

    • JATdS April 8, 2015 at 1:18 pm

      An update to this story. The 2012 IF score has been removed from the Plant Biosystems (Taylor and Francis) web-page. An echange with the editors and the Taylor and Francis management left us with widely different opinions about the issue.

      My concern is how many Taylor and Francis journals currently list an old 2012 IF on their web-pages, especially those that have lost their 2013-2014 IF due to excessive self-citation (as was the case for Plant Biosystems) or for other unknown reasons?

  • JATdS March 24, 2015 at 7:27 am

    I submitted an opinion paper on post-publication peer review to TIJSAT on February 10, 2015. On February 21, 2015 I asked the EIC, Dr. Boonhong Chongkid, if the journal had received the paper. Silence. On March 24, I sent a reminder, made sure I copied the concern to about 10 editors and indicated that if I did not receive a response, that I would be forced to contact the Thai Ministry of Education. 2 hours later, I received a reply from the journal manager, Chatchada Wutthichokdamrong, who stated: “Now, We have submission online system Please,check instruction for author and send to http://tujournals.tu.ac.th/tijsat/ click online submission”. Not a single word of apology. I just responded to Chatchada Wutthichokdamrong, indicating that TIJSAT should process the paper as is because the instructions for authors clearly state: “Manuscripts should be submitted as an attached word and pdf file through tijsat.tu@gmail.com
    http://tujournals.tu.ac.th/tijsat/instructionEN.aspx

    Day after day, situations like this begin to chip away at our patience with editors and publishers…

    • JATdS March 25, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      24 hours after resubmitting to TIJSAT, using their online submission system, I received a rejection e-mail. The curious part of the rejection is the following:
      “We would like to inform you that the article is in the purpose and scope of the journal and the format of the article complies with the journal’s guidelines.” (paragraph 2)
      “Please revise the article based on the scope/format guidelines of the journal”. (paragraph 4)

      Paragraph 3 indicates that “your research manuscript is completely rejected since there are no abstract and methods in doing the research”. Firstly, there is an abstract. Secondly, this is an opinion paper, so it is evident that there is no methodology.

      The rejection letter is signed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Boonhong Chongkid.

      I have challenged the rejection today and will update.

      • JATdS April 8, 2015 at 1:20 pm

        Following dead silence by TIJSAT, I have decided not to pursue this journal for the publication of my paper and have submutted elsewhere. The increasing lack of editorial accountability in a wide range of journals is absolutely staggering.

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