UM’s defence of citation stacking not convincing

umanyPETALING JAYA: An association representing the youths of Universiti Malaya is not convinced by the varsity’s defence of citation stacking as demanded by UM’s Engineering Faculty.

University Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany) head of strategy bureau Ho Chi Yang said citing the work of colleagues is acceptable provided that the works are related.

However, Ho noted that in this case, the letter signed by the Dean of the Engineering Faculty states clearly that citing three relevant papers is required as part of the key performance indicators (KPIs).

“Therefore it is clear that academic freedom is not respected at all by the faculty as researches are forced to cite the faculty’s own papers.

“We believe that researchers should be given the absolute freedom to conduct research in the way they prefer, and that includes citing the papers that they think are useful instead of fulfilling KPI,” he told FMT.

Ho was responding to a brief statement by the varsity that it was common practice for faculty academic staff to cite the publications of staff at the faculty or from other faculties within the varsity, provided the publication is relevant to the study.

Ho also claimed that in this case, there was no denial from the UM management, which may suggest that the varsity’s top management actually approves citation stacking and even encourages such practice in order to improve rankings of faculties and the university.

“If this is true, we think that such practice only shows the short-sightedness of UM in adopting ridiculous strategies to boost its rankings rather than focusing on making significant improvements or reforms to truly improve the quality of researches.

“We think UM still owes the academics, students, and the public an explanation,” Ho said.

The Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Association (PKAUM) had called it an unacceptable practice, as it was potentially unethical, especially if the citation has no or minimal relevance to the work at hand and is done merely to “play the system” of personal aggrandisement and institutional rankings boosting.

PKAUM said it also placed a ridiculous demand on academic staff by linking “citation stacking” to their own academic performance, and that it eroded academic freedom as staff are being forced to cite their colleagues whether they want to or not.

Citation stacking involves improper citation relationships between a group of journals to increase citations back to a particular title.

Due to the fact that citations are an indicator for a universities’ rankings, citation stacking can be used to ensure that the journals published by an institution, faculty, or university are constantly and frequently cited for the purpose of improving its ranking.

The UM Engineering Faculty had allegedly issued a letter signed by its dean, Professor Noor Azuan Abu Osman, stating that staff members are required to cite three of their colleagues in each of their publications.