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ResourcesResearch IntegrityCan soil science research dig itself out from a citation stacking scandal? – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | April 2018)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Can soil science research dig itself out from a citation stacking scandal? – Retraction Watch (Alison McCook | April 2018)

Published/Released on April 04, 2018 | Posted by Admin on July 2, 2018 / , , ,
 


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Last year, the soil science community was rocked by reports that an editor, Artemi Cerdà, was accused of citation stacking — asking authors to cite particular papers — boosting his profile, and that of journals where he worked. (Cerdà has denied the allegations.) The case had some major fallout: Cerdà resigned from two journals and the editorial board of Geoderma, additional editors resigned from their posts, and a university launched an investigation. In the midst of the mess, a group of early career scientists in the field released an open letter, urging the leaders of the community “to establish a clear road map as to how this crisis will be handled and which actions will be taken to avoid future misconducts.” Today, Jan Willem van Groenigen, Chair of the Editors in Chief of Geoderma, along with other editors at the journal, published a response to those letter-writers — including a list of the 13 papers that added 83 citations the journal has deemed “unwarranted.” The editorial includes a list of “actions we have taken to prevent citation stacking from recurring and to further strengthen the transparency of the review process” — including monitoring editors and showing authors how to report suspicious conduct.

A reviewer systematically required authors to include references to his articles and/or journals. Even though the decision has been to treat the authors as not culpable this might be an opportunity to observe they could have been treated as partly responsible and so institutions should provide advice/assistance to help ECRs respond appropriately to any such pressure. Having said that, the instructions of the reviewer appeared to have the support of the editors and you have to feel for the ECRs who found themselves subject to such apparent coercion.

Retraction Watch: It’s been nine months since the young researchers released their open letter — why respond now?.

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Jan Willem van Groenigen: This is not our first response. We already responded early March 2017 to this case by online publishing a “letter to the Geoderma community” in which we stated that citation stacking had taken place in our journal. We also stated the number of affected articles and the approximate number of unwarranted citations, although we did not provide details on them like we do in our current editorial. We also announced that Prof. Cerda had withdrawn as member of our Editorial Board. I think that, after the [European Geosciences Union] journals who detected and published this misconduct first, we might have been the first journal to respond.
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