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Punishment for citation stacking

The Journal Citation Reports (JCR), an international index published by Thomson Reuters, suspended six Brazilian periodicals in 2013 because of irregularities that were detected in their citations. Every year, the JCR measures a journal’s impact factor based on citations of the articles it has published in the previous two years. Two periodicals were suspended because of excess self-citations and the other four because they contrived a kind of citations ‘cartel’ among themselves to artificially boost their impact factors. The four suspended journals are: Clinics, edited by the University of São Paulo School of Medicine (FMUSP); Jornal Brasileiro de Pneumologia (Brazilian Journal of Pulmonology); Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira (Journal of the Brazilian Medical Association); and Acta Ortopédica Brasileira (Brazilian Orthopedics Journal). Publication of their impact factors will resume in 2014. News of the case was released in June, after Thomson Reuters detected anomalous citation patterns that were generating distortions in impact factors. In August 2013, the journal Nature published a paper on the case and spoke with Maurício da Rocha e Silva, former editor of Clinics, who admitted to the so-called cartel practice. Silva went on to criticize the Coordinating Agency for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (Capes) for its policy of overemphasizing the impact factor when evaluating graduate programs, thereby pressuring editors to attain ever higher indices. The suspended journals are part of the SciELO Brasil online library, whose directors recommended that the papers in question be retracted. “What this group of editors did is regrettable, because these are quality journals,” says Abel Packer, director of SciELO, the FAPESP program that encompasses more than 280 open-access journals in Brazil. “The issue is bigger than this. Editors and authors have come to depend almost obsessively on a journal’s impact factor, given its indiscriminate use as a quality indicator in assessment systems,” he states.