Seismic analysis of mine collapse signals in NE Estonia

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Soosalu, H.; Dineva, S.; Ring, M.; Valgma, I.; Nikitin, O.; Rõivasepp, K. (2014). Seismic analysis of mine collapse signals in NE Estonia. In: The 45th Nordic Seismology Seminar: The 45th Nordic Seismology Seminar, October 8-10, Visby, Sweden. (Toim.) Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala. Uppsala, Sweden: Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala.

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ABSTRACT Soosalu, H.; Dineva, S.; Ring, M.; Valgma, I.; Nikitin, O.; Rõivasepp, K. (2014). Seismic analysis of mine collapse signals in NE Estonia. In: The 45th Nordic Seismology Seminar: The 45th Nordic Seismology Seminar, October 8-10, Visby, Sweden. (Toim.) Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala. Uppsala, Sweden: Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala.

Soosalu, H.; Dineva, S.; Ring, M.; Valgma, I.; Nikitin, O.; Rõivasepp, K. (2014). Seismic analysis of mine collapse signals in NE Estonia. In: The 45th Nordic Seismology Seminar: The 45th Nordic Seismology Seminar, October 8-10, Visby, Sweden. (Toim.) Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala. Uppsala, Sweden: Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala.. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272027039_Soosalu_H._Dineva_S._Ring_M._Valgma_I._Nikitin_O._Rivasepp_K._(2014)._Seismic_analysis_of_mine_collapse_signals_in_NE_Estonia._In_The_45th_Nordic_Seismology_Seminar_The_45th_Nordic_Seismology_Seminar_October_8-10_Visby_Sweden._(Toim.)_Department_of_Earth_Sciences_University_of_Uppsala._Uppsala_Sweden_Department_of_Earth_Sciences_University_of_Uppsala [accessed Apr 29, 2015].

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Manipulating Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics


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Manipulating Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics:

simple, easy and tempting

Emilio Delgado López-Cózar1

, Nicolás Robinson-García1

y Daniel Torres-Salinas2

EC3: Evaluación de la Ciencia y de la Comunicación Científica

1Universidad de Granada

2Universidad de Navarra

edelgado@ugr.es; elrobin@ugr.es; torressalinas@gmail.com

ABSTRACT

The launch of Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics may provoke a

revolution in the research evaluation field as it places within every researcher’s reach tools

that allow bibliometric measuring. In order to alert the research community over how easily

one can manipulate the data and bibliometric indicators offered by Google’s products we

present an experiment in which we manipulate the Google Citations’ profiles of a research

group through the creation of false documents that cite their documents, and consequently,

the journals in which they have published modifying their H-index. For this purpose we

created six documents authored by a faked author and we uploaded them to a researcher’s

personal website under the University of Granada’s domain. The result of the experiment

meant an increase of 774 citations in 129 papers (six citations per paper) increasing the

authors and journals' H-index . We analyse the malicious effect this type of practices can

cause to Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics. Finally, we conclude with

several deliberations over the effects these malpractices may have and the lack of control

tools these tools offer

KEYWORDS

Google Citations / Google Scholar Metrics/ Scientific Journals / Scientific fraud / Citation

analysis / Bibliometrics / H Index / Evaluation / Researchers

Referencia bibliográfica recomendada

Delgado López-Cózar, Emilio; Robinson-García, Nicolás; Torres Salinas, Daniel (2012).

Manipulating Google Scholar Citations and Google Scholar Metrics: simple, easy and tempting.

EC3 Working Papers 6: 29 May, 2012

1. INTRODUCTION

If the launch of Google Scholar in 2004 (a novel search engine focused on retrieving any

type of academic material along with its citations) meant a revolution in the scientific

information market by allowing universal and free access to all documents available in

the web, the launch of Google Scholar Citations (hereafter GS Citations)(a tool for

measuring researchers' output and impact (Cabezas-Clavijo y Torres-Salinas, 2012)) and

Google Scholar Metrics (hereafter GS Metrics) (a scientific index of journals ranked

according to their impact (Cabezas-Clavijo y Delgado López-Cózar, 2012)) may well be a

historical milestone for the globalization and democratisation of research evaluation

(Butler 2011). As well as constituting an obstacle to the traditional bibliographic

databases and bibliometric indexes offered by Thomson Reuters (Web of Science and

JCR) and Elsevier (Scopus and SJR), ending with their monopoly and becoming a serious

competitor; Google Scholar's new products project a future landscape with ethical and

sociological dilemmas that may entail serious consequences in the world of science and

research evaluation. Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 2

Without considering the technical and methodological problems that the Google Scholar

products have, which are currently under study (Jacsó, 2008, 2011; Wouters y Costas,

2012; Aguillo, 2012; Cabezas-Clavijo y Delgado López-Cózar, 2012; Torres-Salinas,

Ruiz-Pérez y Delgado López-Cózar, 2009) and which will be presumably solved in a near

future, its irruption ends with all kinds of scientific control or filters of researchers'

activity, becoming a new challenge to the bibliometric community. Since the moment

Google Scholar automatically retrieves, indexes and stores any type of scientific material

uploaded by an author without any previous external control (repositories are only a

technical filter as they do not review the content), it allows unprincipled people to

manipulate their output, impacting directly on their bibliometric performance.

Because this type of behaviour by which one modifies its output and impact through

intentional and unrestrained self-citation is not uncommon, we consider necessary to

analyse thoroughly Google's capacity to detect the manipulation of data.

This study continues the research line started by Labbé (2010). In his paper he

transformed a faked researcher called Ike Antkare ( ‘I can’t care’) into the most prolific

researcher in history. However, in this case we will enquire over the most dangerous

aspects of gaming tools aimed at evaluating researchers and the malicious effects they can

have on researchers' behaviour. Therefore our aim is to demonstrate how easily anyone

can manipulate Google Scholar's tools. But, contrarily to Labbé, we will not emphasize

the technical aspects of such gaming, but its sociological dimension, focusing on the

enormous temptation these tools can have for researchers and journals' editors, eager to

increase their impact. In order to do so, we will show how the bibliometric profiles of

researchers and journals can be modified simultaneously in the easiest way possible: by

uploading faked documents on our personal website citing the whole production of a

research group. It is not necessary to use any type of software for creating faked

documents: you only need to copy and paste the same text over and over again and upload

the resulting documents in a webpage under an institutional domain. We will also analyse

Google's capacity to detect retracted documents and delete their bibliographic records

along with the citations they make.

This type of study by which false documents are created in order to evidence defects,

biases or errors committed by authors has been used many times in scientific literature,

especially in the research evaluation field. The reader is referred to the works of Peters &

Ceci (1990), Epstein (1990), Sokal (1996, 1997) or Baxt et al. (1998) when demonstrating

the deficiencies of the peer review method as an objective, reliable, valid, efficient and

free of errors quality control tool over content published in scientific journals. Or Scigen1

,

a programme created by three students from the MIT for generating random papers in the

Computer Science field including graphs, figures and references. All of these works

raised an intense debate within the research community.

Therefore, this paper is structured as follows. Firstly we described the methodology

followed; how were the false documents created and where were they uploaded. Then we

show the effect they had on the bibliometric profiles of the researchers who received the

1

http://pdos.csail.mit.edu/scigen/Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 3

citations and we emulate the effect these citations would have had on the journals affected

if GS Metrics was updated regularly. We analyse the technical effects and the dangerous

these tools entail for evaluating research. Finally we conclude emphasizing their strengths

and some concluding remarks.

2. MANIPULATING DATA: THE GOOGLE SCHOLAR EXPERIMENT

In order to analyse GS Citations’ capacity to discriminate academic works from those

which aren’t and test the grade of difficulty for manipulating output and citations in

Google Scholar and its bibliometric tools (GS Citations and Metrics), we created false

documents referencing the whole research production of the EC3 research group (Science

and Scientific Communication Evaluation) available at http://ec3.ugr.es in the easiest

possible way. This way we intend to show how anyone can manipulate its output and

citations in GS Citations.

Figure 1. Fake documents authored by the non-existent researcher MA PantaniContador

Following the example set by Labbé (2010), we created a false researcher named Marco

Alberto Pantani-Contador, making reference to the great fraud the Italian cyclist became

at the end and the accidental causes that deprived the Spanish cyclist from winning the

Tour. Thus, Pantani-Contador authored six documents (figure 1) which did not intend to

be considered as research papers but working papers. In a process that lasted less than a

half day’s work, we draft a small text, copied and pasted some more from the EC3

research group’s website, included several graphs and figures, translated it automatically

into English using Google Translate and divided it into six documents. Each document

referenced 129 papers authored by at least one member of the EC3 research group

according to their website http://ec3.ugr.es. That is, we expected a total increase of 774

citations. Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 4

Afterwards, we created a simple webpage under the University of Granada domain

including references to the false papers and linking to the full text, in order to let Google

Scholar index the content. We excluded other services such as institutional or subjectbased repositories as they are not obliged to undertake any bibliographic control rather

than a formal one (Delgado López-Cózar, 2012) and they were not included in the aims of

this study.

The false documents were uploaded on 17 April, 2012. Due presumably because it was a

personal website and not a repository, Google indexed these documents nearly a month

after they were uploaded, on 12 May, 2012. At that time the members of the research

group used as study case along with the three co-authors of this paper, received an alert

from GS Citations pointing out that some MA Pantani-Contador had cited their Works.

The citation explosion was thrilling, especially in the case of the youngest researchers

where their citation rates were multiplied by six, notoriously increasing in size their

profiles.

Figure 2. Citations increase for the authors of this paper

Emilio Delgado López-Cózar

WHOLE PERIOD SINCE 2007

BEFORE the

experiment

AFTER the

experiment

BEFORE the

experiment

AFTER the

experiment

Citations 862 1297 + 435 560 995 + 435

H-Index 15 17 + 2 10 15 + 5

i10-Index 20 40 + 20 11 33 + 22

Nicolás Robinson-García

WHOLE PERIOD SINCE 2007

BEFORE the

experiment

AFTER the

experiment

BEFORE the

experiment

AFTER the

experiment

Citations 4 29 + 25 4 29 + 25

H-Index 1 4 + 3 1 4 + 3

i10-Index 0 0 0 0 0 0

Daniel Torres-Salinas

WHOLE PERIOD SINCE 2007

BEFORE the

experiment

AFTER the

experiment

BEFORE the

experiment

AFTER the

experiment

Citations 227 409 + 182 226 408 + 182

H-Index 9 11 + 2 9 11 + 2

i10-Index 7 17 + 10 7 17 + 10

Figure 2 shows the increase of citations the authors experienced. Obviously, the number

of citations per author varies depending the number of publications of each of the member

of the research group used as study case as well as real citations received during the study

period. Thus, the greatest increase is for the less-cited author, Robinson-García, who

multiplies by 7.25 the number of citations received, while Torres-Salinas doubles it and

Delgado López-Cózar experiences an increase of 1.5. We also note the effect on the H-Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 5

index of each researcher. While the most significant increase is perceived in the less

prolific profile, the variation for the other two others is much more moderate, illustrating

the stability of the indicator. Note how in Torres-Salinas’ case, where the number of

citations is doubled, how the H-index only increases by two. On the other hand, we

observe how the i10-index is much more sensitive to changes. In Torres-Salinas’ case, the

increase goes from 7 to 17, and in Delgado López-Cózar’s case it triples for the last five

years, going from 11 to 33.

Figure 3. Effects on the manipulation of the citations in one of the authors

BEFORE THE EXPERIMENT

AFTER THE EXPERIMENT

Also, it is interesting to analyse the effect this citation increase may have on the h-index

for journals indexed in GS Metrics. For this, we have considered the two journals in

which the members of the research group have published more papers and therefore, more

sensitive to be manipulated. These are El Profesional de la Información with 30 papers

published in this journal and Revista Española de Documentación Científica, with 33

papers. In table 1 we show the H-indexes for El Profesional de la Información and

Revista Española de Documentación Científica according to Google and the increase it

would have if the citations emitted by Pantani-Contador had been included. We must alert

the reader that this tool, contrarily to the rest of Google’s products, is not automatically

updated and that data displayed dates to the day of its launch, that is, 1 April, 2012

(Cabezas-Clavijo y Delgado López-Cózar, 2012). We observe that El Profesional de la

Información would be the one which would be more influenced, as seven papers would

surpass the 12 citations threshold increasing its H-index and ascending in the ranking for

journals in Spanish language from position 20 to position 5 if the index was updated

today. Revista Española de Documentación Científica would slightly modify its position,

as only one article surpasses the 9 citations threshold that influence its h-index. Even so Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 6

and due to the high number of journals with its same h-index, it would go up from

position 74 to 54.

Table 1. Effect of the manipulation of citations over journals

Journal H-Index (GS

Metrics)

Art > 12

citations

Manipulated HIndex

El Profesional de la Información 12 7 19

Revista Española de Documentación

Científica 9 1 10

After proving the vulnerability of Google’s products when including false documents and

showing its effect at the researcher-level and journal-level, on 17 May, 2012 we deleted

the false documents and webpage in order to see if Google Scholar would delete the

records and the citations received according to GS Citations. However, until this date (29

May) and 17 days after they were removed from the Internet, no modifications have been

made whatsoever. The records of the authored documents by our faked researcher are still

available when searching its production and, despite being broken links, there is a version

of the documents saved by Google.

3. TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS

The results of our experiment show how easy and simple it is to modify the citation

profiles offered by Google. This exposes the dangers it may lead to in the hands of editors

and researchers tempted to do “citations engineering” and modify their H-index by

excessively self-citing their papers or, in a most refined way, sending citations only to the

hot zone of their publications, that is, those which can influence this indicator. In the case

of El Profesional de la Información, it is 16 documents with between 10 and 12 citations

for the time period analysed by GS Metrics (2007-2011) the ones that could modify this

journal’s position by having from 1 to 3 citations more.

Coming back to more technical issues, firstly, we must emphasize how easy it is to

manipulate, not just output, - previously stated by Labbé (2010), - but also citations. This

is raises serious concerns over the lack of Google Scholar to discriminate false documents

from those which are not. Although Google Scholar is only meant to index and retrieve

all kinds of academic material in its widest sense, the inclusion of GS Citations and GS

Metrics, which are evaluating tools, must include the introduction of monitoring tools and

the establishment more rigid criteria for indexing documents. Google Scholar offers

access to a wide range of document types, becoming a much more attractive database, not

just because of its “magic formula” for retrieving information, but because of the richness

of the data it handles. However, leaving such a controlled environment as journals leads

to many dangers in the research evaluation world.

On the other hand, it is interesting to observe the stability of the h-Index when affecting

experienced researchers, even if the number of citations is doubled. This may bring a

sense of relief, however, unfortunately there are many ways for manipulating this

indicator through self-citation (Bartneck and Kokkelmans, 2011). Also, regarding

journals and the most likely updating of GS Metrics, which was included on Google

Scholar`s homepage a few days ago, devious editors can easily modify their journals’ H-Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 7

index. Also, we observe how notable is the variation of the i10-Index, especially for

experienced researchers.

Regarding the effect these malpractices may have over the rankings presented by Google,

it would obviously be significant, especially for those journals with small figures, on

which the slightest variation can have a great impact on their performance.

The impossibility of editing citations in GS Citations pointing out the wrong ones and

indicating those which have not been detected, highlights this shortcoming, therefore we

alert as it has previously been done (Cabezas-Clavijo and Torres-Salinas, 2012) of the

dangers the use of these tools for bibliometric purposes entail. The last part of the

experiment will be to see if the records of the deleted documents will be erased form

Google Scholar, along the citations the emit. This has not still happened and, if it doesn’t

occur, it will emphasize an important the general search engine also has, its impossibility

to exercise our “right to be forgotten” (Gómez, 2011).

Figure 4. Results from Google Scholar

Now, it is important to emphasize the visibility these tools offer and the transparency the

allow, facilitating the detection of these practices by the community, as we have

witnessed over the elaboration of this experiment. Many of the co-authors affected by the

malpractices of devious Pantani-Contador detected his reproachable behaviour and

enquired over the issue.

On the other side, it is interesting to see how papers published over the same template are

indexed differently by Google. This shows once again, the lack of normalization it has.

Therefore we see naming variations over the six false documents uploaded (figure 4).

3. FINAL THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 8

Even if we have previously argued in favour of Google Scholar as a research evaluation

tool minimizing its biases and technical and methodological issues (Cabezas-Clavijo,

Delgado López-Cózar, 2012), in this paper we alert the research community over how

easy it is to manipulate data and bibliometric indicators. Switching form a controlled

environment where the production, dissemination and evaluation of scientific knowledge

is monitored (even accepting all the shortcomings of peer review) to a environment that

lacks of any kind of control rather than researchers’ consciousness is a radical novelty

that encounters many dangers. (Table 2).

Table 2. Control measures in the traditional model vs. Google Scholar’s products

Traditional model Google Scholar’s tools

Databases select journals to be indexed It indexes any document belonging to an

academic domain

Journals select papers to be published Any indexed document type emits and

receives citations

There is a control between citing and cited

documents

Fraudulent behaviours are persecuted

It is not possible to alert over fraudulent

behaviours or citation errors

Putting on researchers’ hand, which are humans, the tools that allow manipulating output

and citations may have unforeseen consequences or make these tools useless. The lack of

control that characterises these tools is their strength but also their weak point. It is so

easy to manipulate GS Citations that anyone can emulate Ike Antkare and become the

most productive and influential researcher in its specialty. Let alone editors, if GS Metrics

is finally incorporated, they can be tempted to use unethical techniques to increase the

impact of their journals.

These free and accessible products, do not only awaken the Narcissus within researchers

(Wouters; Costas, 2012), but can unleash malpractices aiming at manipulating the

orientation and meaning of numbers as a consequence of the ever growing pressure for

publishing fuelled by the research evaluation exercises of each country. There are many

cases of editors’ frauds where they manipulate through editorial policies researchers’

behaviours in order to increase the impact factor, as described by Falagas and Alexiou

(2008). Many journals are excluded every year from the Web of Science because of their

fraudulent behaviour (http://adminapps.webofknowledge.com/JCR/static_html/notices/notices.htm). There are many

examples, such as the one reported by Dimitrov et al. (2010) with the resounding case of

revista Acta Crystallographica A which surprised everyone when increasing its impact

factor from 2,38 to 49,93 in a year. It seemed that from the 5966 citations received in Delgado López-Cózar, Robinson-García & Torres-Salinas. Manipulating Google Scholar … 9

2009 by the 72 papers published in 2008, 5624 belonged just to one article. This paper

was in fact responsible of such an anomalous behaviour. Another example can be found

in Opatrný (2008).

Currently there are no controlling or filtering systems for avoiding fraud rather than

researchers’ ethical values. In this sense, we must point out the role of institutions such as

the Committee on Publication Ethics (http://publicationethics.org/) and other similar

organizations devoted to pursuing fraud within the traditional research communication

model, that is, journals. We may be witnessing a new revolution of the scientific

communication model and it may be just a matter of time to see other similar organization

working in this new environment. For our part, we conclude our experiment and we await

patiently the retraction of our inexistent researcher by Google, following our example and

deleting the faked citations from our profiles. Google’s effort on the creation of new

evaluation tools forecasts many changes in the research evaluation world. Not just

because these tools are cost-free, but because of their great coverage, immediacy and ease

of use. We will just have to wait to see which path will Google follow in their attempt to

put a stop to those numbers that are devouring science (Monastersky 2005).

SUPLEMENTARY MATERIAL

More information is available http://www.ugr.es/~elrobin/pantani.html.

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