The Dark World of Citation Cartels

Article by Domingo Docampo: “In the complex landscape of modern academe, the maxim “publish or perish” has been gradually evolving into a different mantra: “Get cited or your career gets blighted.” Citations are the new academic currency, and careers now firmly depend on this form of scholarly recognition. In fact, citation has become so important that it has driven a novel form of trickery: stealth networks designed to manipulate citations. Researchers, driven by the imperative to secure academic impact, resort to forming citation rings: collaborative circles engineered to artificially boost the visibility of their work. In doing so, they compromise the integrity of academic discourse and undermine the foundation of scholarly pursuit. The story of the modern “citation cartel” is not just a result of publication pressure. The rise of the mega-journal also plays a role, as do predatory journals and institutional efforts to thrive in global academic rankings.

Over the past decade, the landscape of academic research has been significantly altered by the sheer number of scholars engaging in scientific endeavors. The number of scholars contributing to indexed publications in mathematics has doubled, for instance. In response to the heightened demand for space in scientific publications, a new breed of publishing entrepreneur has seized the opportunity, and the result is the rise of mega-journals that publish thousands of articles annually. Mathematics, an open-access journal produced by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, published more than 4,763 articles in 2023, making up 9.3 percent of all publications in the field, according to the Web of Science. It has an impact factor of 2.4 and an article-influence measure of just 0.37, but, crucially, it is indexed with Clarivate’s Web of Science, Elsevier’s Scopus, and other indexers, which means its citations count toward a variety of professional metrics. (By contrast, the Annals of Mathematics, published by Princeton University, contained 22 articles last year, and has an impact factor of 4.9 and an article-influence measure of 8.3.)..(More)”