Four Brazilian scientific journals have been suspended from Thomson Reuters' journal impact factor calculations due to their attempts to game the system, Richard Van Noorden reports this week in Nature.
In making its impact factor calculations, Thomson Reuters relies on the number of times a journal's articles are cited by other papers, a method that has led to journal "self-citation" in which publications encourage new submissions to cite papers previously published in that journal.
The Brazilian journals, Van Noorden writes, took this a step further, agreeing to cite each other's articles to help inflate their impact factors.
Mauricio Rocha-e-Silva, the since-fired editor of one of the accused journals, admits that he and his colleagues were "caught wrong-footed." However, he says, they were driven to the practice by the Brazilian government's policy of evaluating grad programs based on the impact factors of the journals their students publish in.
"As emerging Brazilian journals are in the lowest ranks, few graduates want to publish in them. This vicious cycle, in [Rocha-e-Silva's] view, prevents local journals [from] improving," Van Noorden notes.