Chennai dental university ‘used self-citations to ace rankings’, finds investigation by journal ‘Science’

New Delhi: Chennai’s Saveetha Dental Faculty has figured among the the top rated 20 dental establishments for two consecutive yrs — 18th in 2022 and 13th in 2023 — in the QS Planet University rankings. Nevertheless, according to an investigation whose results have been released in American academic journal Science, guiding its higher citations is an “unethical publishing scheme”.

The higher education administration has rubbished the allegation, contacting it “propaganda” from the larger group the higher education is element of, and India. 

Compiled by world wide larger training analyst Quacquarelli Symonds, the QS rankings supply comparative evaluation on the overall performance of specific programmes at 1,594 universities in 93 spots across the planet.

The investigation, done by the Science journal and Retraction Check out — a site that reports on retractions of scientific papers and on similar subject areas — signifies that the institute made use of self-citation, alongside with “a couple imprecise sentences that it pushes into all the study papers that it publishes”.

Responding to ThePrint’s queries via email, G. Kaarthikeyan, professor and head of the periodontics section (lecturers) at Saveetha Dental College identified as the Science article “propaganda” from the Saveetha Institute of Clinical And Specialized Sciences — a larger sized group the college or university is portion of.

“Obviously, if you publish a good deal, you will cite a lot. If there is a quite a few-fold increase in publication, 1 really should enjoy the magnitude of really hard function and investigation amenities developed. They just simply cannot digest an Indian institution escalating so quick. They are rubbishing the challenging function of our school and pupils out of jealousy. We hope they use the exact same regular to all Western establishments,” he further more reported.

Kaarthikeyan included that all of the college’s information is available for scrutiny in the community domain. “We are self-confident of the high-quality of our work…negative propaganda designed to make our country look negative need to be strongly condemned”.

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‘Self-citation & usage of vague phrases’

Citations are references to other will work — textbooks, articles or blog posts, or exploration papers — that are described within just a unique scholarly doc, typically in the form of a bibliography or reference record. 

Citations in investigation papers can be made use of to give credit to the first authors and resources of data, ideas, or ideas that have been utilised or discussed in a scholarly do the job or to assistance statements and arguments produced in a paper.

By citing pertinent and dependable resources, researchers show their know-how of the  present literature and engagement with a broader academic community.

They also participate in a important job in various university ranking programs. For case in point, the commonly recognised QS Environment University Rankings and Instances Better Education and learning Environment University Rankings contemplate quotation metrics as a element in their methodologies. 

Analysis establishments with a greater variety of citations usually fare greater in rankings because it suggests that their research outputs have been commonly cited and recognised by other researchers. 

In a former report, ThePrint had uncovered how the demanding rigour of obtaining investigate papers published in schools — that are not outfitted for study — qualified prospects to the publication of countless numbers of papers from India in bogus exploration journals.

In accordance to the college’s web site, every single calendar year hundreds of undergraduates take part in a 4-hour examination in which they are anticipated to produce a 1,500-phrase manuscript on investigate they have carried out. 

These papers are then ‘standardised’ by the college at the university and then submitted to and released by journals.

In accordance to the Science report, the faculty utilizes variants of a vague phrase in all exploration its papers, and these papers are composed in a way to cite much more papers written by their own authors.

An instance of utilization of obscure phrases in investigation papers is: “Our group has a broader investigate know-how and encounter that has been transformed into higher impression publications.”

To describe a study group, the institute works by using numerous other phrases like “a prosperity of research and understanding,” “rich expertise,” “extensive knowledge”, or “numerous primary studies”. This appears in at the very least 138 article content that cite a 2019 experience study by two professors of the dental college and whose text could be accessed by Google Scholar.

According to the report, the investigation by Retraction Watch uncovered that undergraduate study paper topics selection from fruit consumption by pupils to consciousness of mental well being amongst teens.

In accordance to the article, by utilizing obscure phrases, scientists can then cite dozens of papers from their Saveetha-affiliated colleagues, even when the cited articles or blog posts may well have nothing to do with the subject of the study post — which can help substantially inflate the number of citations of papers connected to Saveetha. 

In accordance to the report, Adith Venugopal, an adjunct associate professor at the college or university, joined the dental university in 2020. His papers have experienced a lot more than a thousand citations, virtually all from Saveetha.

“I realised that this might be one thing like a university trying to cite alone a lot more for getting some rankings or one thing of that type,” he was quoted as declaring in the Science report. 

The practice of self-quotation — that is, citing one’s possess previous perform in a research paper — is appeared down on.

Weighing in on the issue, Rahul Siddharthan, a researcher at Chennai-primarily based Institute of Mathematical Science told ThePrint, “More than 15 yrs in the past, Mohamed el Naschie, as editor of the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, copiously published his personal papers in that journal citing himself, propelling his individual citation depend, his journals’ effects factor, and his university’s rating up the lists.”

“The keepers of these metrics adjusted them to ignore self-citation, but now we have a situation of institutional self-quotation, deploying undergraduates for the goal,” Siddharthan claimed.

“This really should instruct us that whatever automated metric is applied for investigate evaluation, it can be and will be gamed, and we ought to acquire such rankings and metrics, at very best, as a very crude original filter and not a evaluate of high-quality,” he included.

Dibyendu Nandi, a scientist at Indian Institute of Science Education and Study (IISER) Kolkata, told ThePrint: “With the proliferation of specialized publications and institutions vying for larger educational prestige, citations and rankings have replaced the excellent of publications and instructing as markers of judgement.”

“A number is much more effortless and so we are all decreased to this. In this atmosphere, some establishments resort to this sort of seemingly legal, but problematic exercise, of gaming citations. Sooner or later, as a result, a single needs to be careful of all these numbers and drop back again on a judgement of quality. There is no shortcut to really hard function, even in deciding on the very best,” Nandi included.

(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)

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