One of my friends has a lot of research works, but he is kinda of lazy in the publishing process. As a result, he has a lot of unpublished research materials. Right now, he is realized that he needs citation count to be able to get some benefits which I don't want to disclose here but I could just tell it's not academic benefit but it is heavily related to only citation count and not even the number of publications (ridiculous yeah? but sadly true!). Also, if he publishes those research materials under his own name and cite himself it will be counted as self-citation and again it is worthless to be qualified for that benefit. This matter leads him to publish his research works under the name of his other friends and in those papers he cite himself just for sake of citation count. The research materials are not questionable and in my opinion even they're remarkable. But he is reluctant to publish it under his own name because he thinks he will miss that benefit and he does not have such a long time to publish his researches under his own name and wait at least a couple of years to accumulate citation counts. This is a really complicated problem and I'm wondering is it a real research misconduct or not? More generally, it really hurts me that some good researchers will be judged solely based on some numbers like citation count, which leads people to these kind of activities. Any idea or suggestion is appreciated.

  • to publish his research works under the name of his other friends Are those friends aware that he uses their names?
    – Arsak
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:08
  • @Marzipanherz Yes, they're OK with this because they trust him. As I said the research content is not questionable and the only thing is that he does not want to publish them under his own name just for sake of citation count and avoiding self-citation. Sounds crazy but sadly true! Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:10
  • I don't understand why you devalue so much citation count. For researchers with a good ethic, its a nice way to measure the impact of research. But that's not the question anyway and good answers are already provided.
    – Emilie
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:59
  • @Emilie I'm not devaluing the citation count. I'm saying sometimes judging someone based on some numbers is not good and could lead to these kind of activities. Also, I know a lot of people, which I could give their Google Scholar here if I were allowed, that has a good citation count but believe me they don't have any idea about the research they're trying to do cause they just got that citation count because of friendship with an author to put them as the fourth or fifth author in an article and luckily that article received huge attention. I'm pointing to these kind of situations. Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:03
  • Yes. It is misconduct.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Nov 23, 2018 at 12:11

2 Answers 2


This does not sound ethical at all. I would say that both your friend and the people who are willing to take credit for his work are lying and misrepresenting their accomplishments.

Furthermore, what your friend is doing is extremely short-sighted. If the material in his publications is remarkable as you state, then he will gain far more citations in the long term by having his name on all of them, rather than trying to artificially inflate his citation count for short-term gains.

  • Now the question is how can I convince him to stop these activities? If he stops he will miss that benefit 90% sure and it will change his life in a really serious direction and may impact his future career. Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:18
  • It can be tricky when it is your friend that is doing the misconduct, because not wanting to lose a friendship. If you are a student at the same institution, then you might be required to report any instances of misconduct that you have witnessed. If I were you, I would carefully review your institution's academic / research misconduct rules to see what your obligations are. Then bring it up with your friend, maybe say that you'll let the past instances slide, but your integrity disallows you from ignoring future violations.
    – mith
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:56
  • Also, if he doesn't qualify for the "benefit" that you're referencing, then it is arguably justified that he doesn't receive that benefit.
    – mith
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:57
  • 4
    It sucks to be in your situation, but misconduct rules exist for a reason. There is no valid argument in support of these misconduct activities. There are many arguments against these activities, with individual integrity probably being the most important. As long as no one is ever reported, then the misconduct will abound. If the misconduct is a prevalent as you imply, then I would distance myself from that group as much as possible, since it could come back to bite everyone in the group / department, not just the irresponsible individuals.
    – mith
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:15
  • 2
    Your original question is whether that activity is research misconduct, and yes, it is. I applaud your willingness to try to convince your friend to not do it. You have to figure out if you are willing to report it. If you are willing to report it, tell your friend first.
    – mith
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 16:20

If I understand your post correctly, "Bob" writes a paper but names "Alice" as the author - with her permission. This is a clear misconduct, because Alice did not do the work attributed to her.

Alice might get in serious trouble when anyone figures out, for example if

  • someone contacts her to ask more details or
  • someone realizes that these papers do not fit to Alice's other publications (or even her education, if she is from a different field)
  • etc

In the aftermath of these troubles, she will be in need to admit that she the actual work was done by Bob, thus, he will be in trouble as well.

  • I would say the second point is not applicable in this situation cause "Alice" and "Bob" works in a same field. Also "Bob" is always there and "Alice" could redirect any possible question to "Bob" and "Bob" will answer that. Other than those hypothetical troubles, is there any other potential problem? Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:30
  • 3
    I just tried to give you examples, how the whole situation might get public (and even if Alice could re-direct mails to Bob, she can't answer when contacted in person, e.g. on a conference). And I tried to show, that not only Bob, but also Alice might have to deal with the consequences.
    – Arsak
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 15:41

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