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Gerak appalled by enforced citation stacking in Universiti Malaya

The Malaysian Academics Movement (Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia, Gerak) is appalled to read about the reported enforced practice of citation stacking in Malaysia’s premier university, the Universiti Malaya (UM).

According to news reports, academicians in UM are being forced to cite their colleagues in their research papers in order to gain points for university ranking. This is being done by making such citations a requirement for their annual Key Performance Indicator (KPI).

This is a serious infringement of their academic freedom to do research and to publish their works. Gerak stresses that the university cannot and must not dictate who should be cited. Academicians should be free to cite anyone whose work is relevant to their research, wherever they may be.

What is more shocking is that the UM is now trying to justify the forced citation by saying it is a common practice among academicians in other universities. No, it is not. At least not by academicians who are ethical professionals.

The simple rule of thumb is that authors/researchers should cite sources they consider pertinent to their work. It would be nice if the citation is the work of their colleague.

But it must NEVER be a requirement stipulated by their department, faculty or university. Failure to cite a colleague must never be cause for the imposition of penalties by any university.

In the case of UM, the embarrassment caused by this incident has spread beyond Malaysia, with a scientific data base, Retraction Watch, reporting and commenting on this incident.

Whatever the UM authorities imagined they could profit from citation stacking evidently has been lost. Instead, this latest flub by the UM authorities will most likely lead to further embarrassment for UM internationally. And a further blow to its reputation.

Gerak urges UM (and all other Malaysian universities) to immediately remove forced citation requirements in the annual KPI of academicians. There are many other more honourable ways to assess academic performance.

UM must also provide logical explanations to the wider academic community – and Malaysians in general – for this fiasco and not simply make up pathetic excuses. Or else, heads must roll.

Gerak maintains that to ensure the highest standards of integrity are upheld, other Malaysian universities must also not issue such directives.

ROSLI MAHAT is general secretary of Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak, or Malaysian Academic Movement, Move).

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