Via Henry at Crooked Timber comes news of a recent article in Science (pay wall, full copy here), Saudi Universities Offer Cash in Exchange for Academic Prestige:
At first glance, Robert Kirshner took the e-mail message for a scam. An astronomer at King Abdulaziz University (KAU) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was offering him a contract for an adjunct professorship that would pay $72,000 a year. Kirshner, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, would be expected to supervise a research group at KAU and spend a week or two a year on KAU’s campus, but that requirement was flexible, the person making the offer wrote in the e-mail. What Kirshner would be required to do, however, was add King Abdulaziz University as a second affiliation to his name on the Institute for Scientific Information’s (ISI’s) list of highly cited researchers.
“I thought it was a joke,” says Kirshner, who forwarded the e-mail to his department chair, noting in jest that the money was a lot more attractive than the 2% annual raise professors typically get. Then he discovered that a highly cited colleague at another U.S. institution had accepted KAU’s offer, adding KAU as a second affiliation on ISIhighlycited.com.
Kirshner’s colleague is not alone. I have learned of more than 60 top-ranked researchers from different scientific disciplines—all on ISI’s highly cited list—who have recently signed a part-time employment arrangement with the university that is structured along the lines of what Kirshner was offered. Meanwhile, a bigger, more prominent Saudi institution—King Saud University in Riyadh—has climbed several hundred places in international rankings in the past 4 years largely through initiatives specifically targeted toward attaching KSU’s name to research publications, regardless of whether the work involved any meaningful collaboration with KSU researchers.
Al Arabiya News reports:
According to several Saudi academicians, the report published this month in Science Magazine under the title “Saudi Universities Offer Cash in Exchange for Academic Prestige” ─ which accused both universities of paying researchers to cite their names as a second affiliation ─ is jeopardizing the reputation of two of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent institutions especially that the magazine is one of the most credible in the world. . . .
The two universities have already denied allegations made by the magazine, said Rahman al-Salhabi, head of the Scientific Research Program ay King Abdul Aziz University Abdul.
“Officials at both universities admitted to ongoing cooperation with several foreign researchers but stressed that they are doing real work together and not just making them put the universities’ names on their research for money like what the magazine claimed,” he told Al Arabiya.
The article concludes:
“A university cannot be founded on propaganda, but on what it really achieves.”
Hmm . . . back to my holiday law porn reading.