Manipulation of bibliometric data by editors of scientific journals

“Such misuse of terms not only justifies the erroneous practice of research bureaucracy of evaluating research performance on those terms but also encourages editors of scientific journals and reviewers of research papers to ‘game’ the bibliometric indicators. For instance, if a journal seems to lack adequate number of citations, the editor of that journal might decide to make it obligatory for its authors to cite papers from journal in question. I know an Indian journal of fairly reasonable quality in terms of several other criteria but can no longer consider it so because it forces authors to include unnecessary (that is plain false) citations to papers in that journal. Any further assessment of this journal that includes self-citations will lead to a distorted measure of its real status….

An average paper in the natural or applied sciences lists at least 10 references.1 Some enterprising editors have taken this number to be the minimum for papers submitted to their journals. Such a norm is enforced in many journals from Belarus, and we, authors, are now so used to that norm that we do not even realize the distortions it creates in bibliometric data. Indeed, I often notice that some authors – merely to meet the norm of at least 10 references – cite very old textbooks and Internet resources with URLs that are no longer valid. The average for a good paper may be more than 10 references, and a paper with fewer than 10 references may yet be a good paper (The first paper by Einstein did not have even one reference in its original version!). I believe that it is up to a peer reviewer to judge whether the author has given enough references and whether they are suitable, and it is not for a journal’s editor to set any mandatory quota for the number of references….

Some international journals intervene arbitrarily to revise the citations in articles they receive: I submitted a paper with my colleagues to an American journal in 2017, and one of the reviewers demanded that we replace references in Russian language with references in English. Two of us responded with a correspondence note titled ‘Don’t dismiss non-English citations’ that we had then submitted to Nature: in publishing that note, the editors of Nature removed some references – from the paper2 that condemned the practice of replacing an author’s references with those more to the editor’s liking – and replaced them with, maybe more relevant, reference to a paper that we had never read by that moment! … 

Editors of many international journals are now looking not for quality papers but for papers that will not lower the impact factor of their journals….”