Journal to retract papers that cost its impact factor and spot in leading index

A journal that didn’t get an impact factor this year after Clarivate, the company behind the closely-watched but controversial metric, identified unusual citations in several articles will retract the offending papers, according to its editor. 

Genetika, a publication of the Serbian Genetics Society, did not receive an updated impact factor in Clarivate’s 2023 Journal Citation Reports due to citation stacking, a practice in which authors or journals seem to trade citations, also known as “citation cartels” or “citation rings.” 

Specifically, Clarivate identified five papers published in Genetika in 2021 that had been cited by 22 papers published in the journal Bioscience Research in 2022, Snezana Mladenovic Drinic, the editor of Genetika, told Retraction Watch. Clarivate also suppressed Bioscience Research this year, meaning that the journal did not receive a new impact factor either. 

(Jelena Milasin, president of the Serbian Genetics Society, previously told us Genetika leadership had offered to retract 32 “suspicious papers” published in 2021 and 2022, but Clarivate went ahead and suppressed the journal anyway.) 

Clarivate also removed Genetika from its Web of Science index when it refreshed its Master Journal List on Monday. The company said the journal failed to meet at least one of 24 quality criteria, but would not comment on which. 

Removing a journal from Web of Science, which Clarivate calls “delisting,” means the company will no longer index its papers, count their citations, or give the title an impact factor. The company does have a pathway for journals to become relisted. 

We asked Milasin and Drinic for comment on the delisting, and Milasin reiterated her earlier comments to us on the suppression, that Clarivate’s decision was “extremely unfair!” She said: 

You will agree with me that it would be totally illogical to do something for “the benefit of our own detriment”

Drinic said Genetika’s editorial team “did not know anything about misused over citations,” and had no influence on the editorial policy of Bioscience Research, no relationships with the authors of the papers involved, nor control over which papers the authors cited.

Still, Drinic acknowledged the citations from Bioscience Research: 

affected the real picture of the citations of papers published in the journal Genetika which had tremendous consequences for the journal. 

The journal Genetika condemns such for the scientific community

an unethical and inappropriate pattern of behavior and we will take all measures to prevent this happening again in the future.

We asked if Genetika would retract any of the relevant papers, and Drinic confirmed the journal would retract “papers for which it was determined that the peer review was not done validly” in its next issue. Drinic said: 

I would like to note that all papers are reviewed by two reviewers, during 2020 and 2021 a huge number of papers were received by the editorial office, and due to the Covid 19 pandemic it was difficult to find reliable reviewers, so we were forced to ask the authors to suggest reviewers. 

Unfortunately, a group of authors and reviewers misused it. All authors and those reviewers have been blacklisted.

The journal editors learned of the problem in the middle of last year, Drinic said, and “took all measures to prevent it from happening again.” 

Last September, scientific sleuth Elisabeth Bik identified 31 papers published in Genetika, mostly in 2021, that seemed linked to what she called the “Iranian Plant Paper Mill.” One of the hallmarks of the papers, she noted, was repeated coordinates indicating where plants were sampled, although the names given for the locations elsewhere in the papers were different. 

Another similarity she found: Many of the papers cited work by S.M. Esfandani-Bozchaloyi and M. Khayatnezhad, “perhaps as part of a citation ring.” 

As an example, she linked to the PubPeer page for the Genetika paper “Study on genetic diversity between Erodium (Geranaiceae) species based on inter-simple sequence repeat markers.” 

In response to our request for comment on the journal’s suppression, an email attributed to the editorial office of Bioscience Research denied having any relationship with Genetika or exchanging citations. 

“We have never heard the name of this journal before,” the email stated. 

Instead, the office pinned the blame squarely on Khayatnezhad: 

On critical analysis of the provide data by Clarivate, we found that mainly one author i.e.  Majid KHAYATNEZHAD from Islamic Azad University Iran cross cited his papers for his personal benefits in papers published by his colleagues from same Iranian university.  This was a common authors in all papers published in Genetika citing our journal papers published by his colleagues from same university.

The editorial office also shared the appeal the journal sent to Clarivate, which listed four Genetika papers on which Khayatnezhad was a coauthor. Clarivate did not change the decision to suppress the journal based on the appeal. The editorial office of Bioscience Research wrote: 

it was extremely unfair that our journal and hundreds of the authors who trusted and published with us were punished for  misconduct of a single author who did it for his personal interest and we don’t have any role in it and even cant not check and control it.  All his conduct was beyond control of editorial office and even no journal can check and fix this type of activity by any of authors among hundred of author. Instead of journal suppression, authors like Majid KHAYATNEZHAD” must be blacklisted for misconduct. 

We emailed Khataynezhad, of the environmental science and engineering department at the Islamic Azad University’s Ardabil branch in Iran and also managing editor of the university’s journal Anthropogenic Pollution, for comment. He responded: 

Unfortunately, I recently encountered many problems in this regard. The increase in my citations in recent years is due to my return to university. But if you check my articles, there are no unusual citations in this field. I would like to retract the articles that have cited me unusually. Increasing citations does not matter to me.

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One thought on “Journal to retract papers that cost its impact factor and spot in leading index”

  1. Retractions within a cloistered community don’t have the reach that is required for cultural adoption. The public news sources that promote false studies the most would be of critical importance in order to address mass adoption psychosis.

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