The dean who came to visit – and added dozens of authors without their knowledge

Kumba Digdowiseiso

Earlier this year, a group of lecturers in Malaysia received a WhatsApp message from a colleague who had made a disturbing discovery. 

The colleague, who wished to remain anonymous for this story, was looking through Google Scholar and noticed their name, and many others from their department, repeatedly appeared alongside that of an unfamiliar author: Kumba Digdowiseiso, dean of the economics and business faculty at Universitas Nasional in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“We didn’t even know who this person was,” said Safwan Mohd Nor, an associate professor of finance at the university, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, adding that he was “extremely angry” when he first found out his name had been used. 

Nor received unwanted bylines on four papers published in journals not indexed by Clarivate’s Web of Science. The journal editors have not responded to requests for comment. “It seems that this is like fraud or predatory journals,” Nor told Retraction Watch. 

At least 24 staff at the university have been unwittingly added to the list of authors on the dean’s papers, Nor said, citing an internal survey documenting the extent of the issue that faculty have not made available despite several requests. Digdowiseiso has been in contact with one lecturer at the university and told Retraction Watch that the matter has been resolved, but many of the staff’s names still remain published online.

The university’s Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Development, where the affected staff are based, declined to comment.

Digdowiseiso has published at least 160 papers in 2024 alone, according to his Google Scholar profile, which casts a wider net for publications than other indexing services such as Web of Science. 

The dean had visited the Malaysian university last year, according to the deputy dean of Academic and Student Affairs, Azwadi Ali. Ali said Digdowiseiso met with management to discuss student mobility, guest lectures and potential research collaboration. “But we did not know that this might happen,” Ali said. 

But according to Nor, Digdowiseiso did not meet with the faculty lecturers and a collaboration was never agreed upon. “He just came to visit and suddenly we noticed our names in those papers,” Nor said. 

His name has since been removed from one of the papers, but the remaining three still list Nor as an author. “I have never been involved in any of these papers, never consented to the use of my name without my direct research involvement, and never collaborated with Kumba Digdowiseiso or his co-authors my whole life,” Nor said. 

He added that some of the staff’s names have been removed from the main page of the paper, but remain in the PDF versions and are still indexed by Google Scholar. 

Nor, Ali and Fahirah Syaliza Mokhtar, another lecturer in the faculty and the university’s legal advisor, said they have attempted to contact Digdowiseiso but have not received a response. Mokhtar requested that he “ensure that our names would be retracted from the article, and that the article should be retracted from the journal,” she told us. “If [Digdowiseiso] wants to proceed with the journal publication, we have no problem with that, but we want to ensure that our names have been retracted from the journals.” 

Ali said Digdowiseiso is in contact with Jumadil Saputra, one of the lecturers at the Malaysian university, who has not responded to our requests for comment. “When we asked him to retract our names, he actually replaced the names with [Saputra’s],” Ali said. Saputra is listed as an author on six publications alongside Digdowiseiso since the start of 2023, according to his Google Scholar profile. 

Nor said Saputra told him Digdowiseiso is in the process of deleting the names. “Our names, however, are still there in the system, and deleting them later does not change the fact that Kumba Digdowiseiso has committed a serious academic offence,” Nor wrote in an email. 

In response to our questions, Digdowiseiso wrote that the matter was “already resolved” between the faculties, but did not respond to follow-up questions. 

“That’s weird, many of our names are still used illegally and displayed in those journal websites and Google Scholar,” Nor said of Digdowiseiso’s response. “Also our faculty is planning to organize a meeting with him, so how come he claimed the issue is resolved?”

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33 thoughts on “The dean who came to visit – and added dozens of authors without their knowledge”

  1. I just do little search on this guy, and on onr journal (JSSS), he was one of the author on all article in few issues. This journal is likely predatory journal, and considering he consistently appeard in all articles, it seems he have connections with “the journal”

    1. If someone is writing 160 papers per year, then they’re writing a paper every couple of days, with no time off for Birthdays or Christmas! A decent, well thought-out piece of original research, that’s worth writing about, takes at least three months and sometimes a lot longer.

      It worries me that University Managers often project a culture that says: lots of publications is a good thing and too many is even better. Surely Universities, of all institutions in Society, ought to be capable of something a little more nuanced than such a simplistic fundamentalist approach? It used to be said that, if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is; I suggest the same might be true for numbers of items per year claimed as genuine original research articles.

        1. Yeah it could happen when you encourage your students to write papers and publish them in a journal. As you can see all of papers in low quality journals has prof Kumba as the 3rd author, means he is not the main writer of the papers but only supervising and checking. However, if you check papers with him as 1st author. all of them are published in high quality journals.

          1. So, I did what you suggested, and checked his papers as 1st author – just for those in 2024. Immediately a problem is obvious: he has over 75 publications in one journal alone – the Journal of Social Science. This includes at least one paper where he is 1st (in fact, sole) author! That is, if he is only co-author in low quality journals, but 1st author in high quality journals, the Journal of Social Science must be both high and low quality in your assessment.

            Of note, of all the journals in which he published in 2024, the Journal of Social Science does not appear anything special in terms of quality compared to the others in which he published as 1st author. They are in essence all local journals, with very limited (if any) international standing.

    2. I think he might be asked to be added to the author list and also directed the first author to add foreign lecturer name so he have the proof that his faculty conducted join research, despite no research was conducted. Also, there is high probability he himself involved in the predatory journal. If you check, in one of the journal, in two issues (total 40 articles) he was one of the author in each and every articles in both issues.

      1. This is common practice in Univ everywhere that we encourage our students to produce papers then publish it in a low quality journals. If you check in detail in the low quality journals prof. Kumba D. are the 3rd or 4th author. While when you check journals where prof Kumba D. are 1st author, they are all high quality journals.

        1. I don’t think all the journals where Prof. Kumbo is the first author are ALL high quality journals. Please correct me if I’m wrong. At a very quick glance, I saw that his publications are in mediocre accredited national journals (not at the highest level) and some are not accredited.

          – Management Studies and Entrepreneurship Journal (MSEJ). Current Acreditation: Sinta 4 (national)
          – Jurnal Ilmiah Global Education. Current Acreditation: Sinta 4 (national)
          – Journal of Syntax Literate. Current Acreditation: Sinta 4 (national)
          – Budapest International Research and Critics Institute-Journal (BIRCI-Journal). Current Acreditation: Not Accredited

  2. Usually, it is the university professors and lecturers who ask their names to be added to papers. It is weird that in this case, it is the other way around. He gains nothing by adding other authors to his papers. Was he paid by a third party to add co-authors to his papers?

    1. The predatory journals or journals at early stage without any indexing, try to publish articles with diverse authors and affiliations and that get them to fulfill some pre conditions to get indexed in scopus and clarivate.

    2. I think it can be due to some grant that requires to have “international collaborator”? Anyhow, this is annoying.

  3. This is not uncommon practice in Indonesia. So many recent professors (although not all of them) have questionable publications. I believe they have some group which facilitate bartering authorship and some of them just blatantly took other name into their publication. He should be demoted and his professor should be revoked.

    1. Even if you did not contribute to the manuscript ? Many here, including me, would consider this to be unethical.

    2. How if the research is fake or fabricated? your name will be in the list of retracted papers authors and it will be recorded forever by Google Scholars. Ofc, it will hurt your future careers.
      In the way around, if the research is good and real, it is still unethical practice if you contribute nothing.

  4. Looks like CNN Indonesia has taken up the story mentioning the Retraction Watch. {I translated the text from Indonesian into English.}

    It will be interesting to see what the official response from his institution (UNAS) will be relating to this, ahem, ‘personal matter’. Perhaps UNAS should appoint a new Dean who better appreciates what is included under the general umbrella of academic misconduct or inappropriate action?

    1. What is “personal matters”? I have no idea. How come personal matters as a reason to dismiss the accusation.

      1. I think “personal” is a typo or confusion with “personnel” (which are cognates in English but a single word in some other languages).

        Many universities (conveniently) have a stated policy of not commenting on matters that can affect the employment of their faculty, until their process has fully run its course.

  5. This matter is being intensely discussed with my colleagues and former/current research students from various countries, including Malaysia, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, and lecturers at UMT. I was a former postgraduate research student at UMT under the main supervision of an economics lecturer, but still in touch with many of the students and lecturers.

    To summarize the issues:

    (A) The concern involves Kumba Digdowiseiso’s unauthorized use of names and excessive publications, extending beyond JSSS to other journals by publishers like CV Syntax Corporation, CV ODIS, and CV Radja Publika in Indonesia, where unknowing co-authors’ and editors’ names were used without consent.

    (B) Similar problems, such as unauthorized use of names as reviewers and co-authors, extend to SRN Intellectual Resources and Scientia Global Academia Services, formerly located at Tok Jembal, Terengganu, Malaysia. These firms, associated with Jumadil Saputra, exhibit a pattern akin to Digdowiseiso’s activities, including replacing original names with Jumadil Saputra’s, supporting Dr. Ali’s claim. Related names in these publishers are Siti Rahmi Nabila (which has since been deleted from the website), Rudyan Saputra, and others.

    Both Digdowiseiso and Jumadil Saputra seem involved in similar practices. I urge appropriate action from universities, and suggest their journals not be indexed by major services like WoS and Scopus. With consent from victims in (A) and (B), their names could be shared here to corroborate this account for broader awareness.

    1. I dont think adding their name in paper will affecting the acceptance of paper for publication.. All of them low ranking researcher, even in UMT rank itself
      i know many big name researcher in UMT Malaysia. but for this researcher, they still novice.

  6. Dr. Y has put the name of Dr. X in her article as a form of stupid act of kindness or perhaps in the hope that her paper gets accepted because of Dr. X, or both; no ill intentions at all because we know Dr. Y, she is a really good and respectable person –just unfamiliar with research and its rules. Point is she didn’t tell Dr. X about her act of “kindness”; perhaps she was aiming for a pleasant surprise; or worried Dr. X would reject her offer. Anyways, Dr. X didn’t even know about the article, let alone consent to it.
    Now, she thinks she has done Dr. X a favor while Dr. X hates her stupid (but sincere) kindness. Dr. X has an article that he doesn’t want or deserve. Actually, he hates the article. He mildly and friendlily told Dr. Y about the fact that she shouldn’t have done so, but Dr. Y thought he is thanking and complimenting her for her favor!
    He asked Dr. Y to remove his name, but it is impossible because Dr. Y has gone to length before to tell everybody that Dr. X was really involved in this research! If she wants to even attempt to remove Dr. X from the paper, she must first admit to authorities that she had deceived them about the (non-existent) contributions of Dr. X; she will most likely get fired or badly penalized if she admits to this.
    Dr. X is stuck. What should Dr. X do? Ask the journal to retract the paper and ruin the efforts of many of its authors and possibly blackist them and also lead to Dr. Y being sacked? Sue Dr. Y who has done this stupid act of kindness with good intentions? Or ignore the matter altogether?

    1. What do you mean with good intention, just unfimiliar with research and its rule? The article clearly said the Dr.X and so many other persons does not even know who Dr. Y is. You do not have to be a doctor that putting someone else’s name that you never ever know in your paper is totally wrong!

      1. I am not talking about Dr. Kumba. Dr. X and Y have nothing to do with the authors mentioned in this article. They have a similar situation and I wanted to ask for suggestions. Dr. Y has put only one extra name in her article: Dr. X. The rest of the many authors in her article were real authors.

  7. I am just wondering why UMT researchers intend to report this problem to third parties publicly. Why they don’t resolve it internally? This issue will
    1. damage the name of UMT
    2. damage the name of Indonesian university
    3. damage the collaboration effort

    1. Why in hell would they have wanted to resolve this privately? The guy used their good name without asking, on papers which for what we know might well be wrong or plagiarized. This is in principle no different from signing a contract in someone’s name…

      1. why not? they should resolved it privately. if unresolved privately, they can use management to help them communicate with management from indonesian university. reporting publicly is the last choice.

        Hope UNAS can take legal action to these UMT lecturer

        1. “Identity thief’s institution should take legal action against the victims of his identity theft”.

        2. If somebody signs a check in your name, will you try to resolve that privately, or go to the police and notify your bank to block it?

  8. This is a common phenomenon almost everywhere. The main problem is: Universities still try to chase rankings and then reward their faculty. The violators then try to chase quantity, the more publications, the more money they get. Secondly, the more publications, the more credit points they will get, so they can apply for promotion to professor faster. It is very unfortunate that this is what happened. It would be a good thing if there were some scientific penalties for those who are caught in this.

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