Some academic institutions are paying authors for the name of the institution to be included in the manuscript so that the institution has an increased number of publications in a given year. The institution gives the author payment and the author terms it as ‘funding’ or ‘grant’, which is not the case. The author publishes the research article in a journal with two affiliations and explains in the acknowledgment section that the institution gave a partial grant. The terms funding and grant are used to camouflage the purpose.
Questions for the Forum
- How can such malpractices be reduced?
- Are there any checks that can be adopted via the submission system or by the editorial team to avoid this issue?
The Forum noted that this type of behaviour is relatively common, especially in South East Asia, often carried out to boost the ranking of the university. Multiple author affiliations to a university and a hospital or a research organisation, for example, are generally fine but the problem arises with dual author affiliations or multiple affiliations to universities, because of the potential issue of boosting productivity. If multiple institutional affiliations appear in the author byline, editors might want to ask authors to explain why and what contributions were made by the universities to the research. Editors could also pursue the primary university to determine if they are aware of the second university and if the second university was involved in the research.
Editors could also ask authors for proof of funding in the case of dual affiliations. If authors can produce a funding letter, editors should make sure it was issued at the time of the study and not after completion of study when the paper was submitted to a journal. Although letters can be forged, it might work as a form of deterrent. The Forum questioned if it is reasonable for journals to have a policy against funding agencies as affiliations?
A related issue is where authors might list one affiliation to an organisation that might be a working group, for example, that operates out of the institution, but the authors do not have any other formal relationship to the institution.
The presenter considers the case closed.