A “citation stacking" scheme, in which editors of certain Brazilian journals published articles cross-citing each others' publications in order to raise the journals’ “impact factors” – a measure of a journal’s influence based on the number of times its articles are cited – has been discovered, Nature reported. The four Brazilian journals are among 14 that have been suspended from the Thomson Reuters ranking of journals.
“We’ve been caught wrong-footed,” said Mauricio Rocha-e-Silva, a retired psychologist and former editor of one of the journals, Clinics. Rocha-e-Silva told Nature that the scheme emerged from frustration with the fact that an agency of Brazil’s national education ministry evaluates graduate programs based partly on the impact factors of the journals in which students publish; because emerging Brazilian journals are poorly ranked, researchers don't wish to publish in them and the local journals do not improve.
The article notes that the scheme is not limited to Brazilian journals -- journals in Italy and China are among those that have been sanctioned -- but only in the Brazil case has an explanation been put forward.