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Data proves that universities fake top rankings

At least one Saudi Arabian institution has found an easy way to be considered ‘excellent’ in world university rankings and there may be others. Highly cited researchers may be getting paid to help

Bogus institutional affiliations may be being used to boost places on world university rankings.

This is according to an analysis by Yves Gingras, professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST) and scientific director at l’Observatoire des sciences et des technologies. They have looked into data from Thomson Reuters’ recently published list of Highly Cited Researchers in University World News.

He uses data on Highly Cited Researchers (HCR) secondary affiliations to disclose what can be seen as a creative way to boost the rankings of a university.

“All these data certainly suggest that this particular institution has found a cheap way to be considered ‘excellent’ in world university rankings. But the same data also suggests that some highly cited researchers may have found an easy way to get more money in exchange for transferring some ‘symbolic capital’ to a university other than the one that hires them full-time,” he writes.

702 with more affiliations

The HCR-list contains the names of 3,215 researchers. Of these 702 have more than one affiliation registered by them in their papers.

It is not uncommon for a scientist to be connected to more institutions in his or her own country like for example a department, affiliated hospital, research centre etc.

But the situation gets more devious for the 297 researchers who have a foreign country as their second address, according to Yves Gingras.

Saudi connection

139 or nearly half of the researchers with a foreign second address are associated with Saudi Arabia.

One university in particular, King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, has 122.

KAU, which was founded in 1967, is placed in the group from 351 to 400 on The World University Rankings.

Loose connection

The statistics shows that only 31 out of 170 researchers at the Thomson Reuters list of Highly Cited Researchers from Saudi Arabian universities have Saudi Arabia as their primary affiliation.

However 139 (82 percent) have the country as their second address.

For comparison the situation is completely the opposite for highly cited researchers from highly developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Canada.

More than 90 per cent have their first address in their own country.

34 Highly Cited Researchers from Denmark are on the Thomson Reuters list. Seven have their secondary address in another country than their own. None in Saudi Arabia.

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