Last month, a publisher announced that one of its editors had resigned, following accusations he’d asked authors to cite particular papers, boosting his profile and that of journals where he worked. The publisher declined to name the editor. But when an anonymous report began circulating about the incident, the publisher named the researcher: Artemi Cerdà, based at the Universitat de València.
Cerdà has since resigned from other journals, but hadn’t made any public statements that we could find about the incident — until now.
We spoke with Cerdà, who asserted repeatedly that he had not forced authors to add citations to their papers, and was being unfairly accused by journals who had to explain why their impact factors had risen dramatically:
They’re putting all the heat on me, because they made a mistake.
Cerdà also denied being part of a “citation cartel,” as has been alleged by an anonymous report.
They were making like I was a boss of a cartel. Oh my god…A cartel of what? Of cocaine?
According to Cerdà, he reviewed many papers for the European Geosciences Union, the publisher who first publicly announced that an unnamed editor had manipulated citations. In cases where the authors hadn’t cited enough papers, or he thought they needed more background information, Cerdà told us he would suggest they read other papers, sometimes mentioning his work or the work of journals where he was based, because his teachers had done that during his training.
If the paper needs to be informed, I suggest to read – not to cite – other work.
What’s more, at the EGU journals, he was a “topical editor,” and didn’t make any decisions about manuscripts.
If it was not correct, why did [editors] accept it?..I couldn’t force [authors] to cite, because I was not Executive Editor…
When he learned that the journals were upset by his practice, Cerdà said he offered to resign, just to avoid problems. But he thought the publisher wouldn’t publicly name him — and was shocked when it did:
They took a decision where they put my name in public.
Cerdà added that he thought publishing might have a larger problem:
If one guy like me, that is trying to help the authors, can change the impact factor of [multiple] journals…we have to change the system.
For more information about EGU’s investigation of Cerdà, you can read their 14-page report, issued last month. In it, they conclude:
As topical editor, Artemi Cerdà handled 82 manuscripts for the journals SE (76) and SOIL (6). For 41 manuscripts he suggested to include in total 622 additional references to the journals LDD (327), SOIL (78), SE (99), CATENA (10), Geoderma (3), and others (116). From these suggestions, 399 were included by the authors of 38 manuscripts. These inclusions reference to LDD (201), SE (65), SOIL (54), CATENA (6), Geoderma (2), and others (71). His maximum was 53 suggestions for a manuscript.
As reviewer, Artemi Cerdà worked on 51 manuscripts in the journals BG (1), ESurf (1), HESS (6), SE (37) and SOIL (6). For 38 manuscripts he suggested to include in total 423 additional references to the journals LDD (229), SOIL, (30), SE (49), CATENA (12), and others (103). His maximum was 28 suggestions for a manuscript.
We’re not sure how common citation-stacking is; our co-founders have written about the issue in their STAT column. Last year, Thomson Reuters, now part of Clarivate Analytics, delisted two journals for citation stacking, and many others for excessive self-citation.
Like Retraction Watch? Consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth. You can also follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up on our homepage for an email every time there’s a new post, or subscribe to our daily digest. Click here to review our Comments Policy. For a sneak peek at what we’re working on, click here.