Each year, the 500 undergraduates at Saveetha Dental College in Chennai, India, participate in 4-hour exams that require them to write a 1500-word manuscript on research they have conducted. After faculty and students review and revise the papers, they use an online tool to add references to previously published work. Many of the papers are then submitted to and published by journals; the process contributed to the more than 1400 scholarly works the dental school published last year.
While this is not strictly speaking a breach of the publication ethics standards distributed by bodies such as COPE, it isn’t a good look for a higher education institution to so blatantly use a student academic activity to generate publications for institutional benefit. This is especially suspect given that it appears that there is some form of citation manipulation going on.
But the torrent of undergraduate manuscripts—on topics including fruit intake by students and awareness of mental health among teenagers—also appears to serve a less savory purpose, an investigation by Retraction Watch has found. By systematically citing other papers published by Saveetha faculty—including papers on completely unrelated topics—the undergraduate publications have helped dramatically inflate the number of citations, a key measure of academic merit, linked to Saveetha.
Read the rest of this Science-Retraction Watch story here.