Citation is one metric of researchers. That is why some of them lend citation to one another. For example, A writes a paper and cites B's work in it, and then B does the same for A, without the citations being relevant to the works.

Is there any word for such academic misconduct? I can think of "citation exchange", but I couldn't find any reference about it.

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    In some cases, this is just called "literature review". If you want to publish something new you'd be expected to demonstrate that you are aware of the state of the art in the field. If your field is fairly small, then it may become natural practice that you'll cite some authors and they'll cite you back. This is because you indeed consulted their (and likely improved upon it) and so did they to yours. @Scientist did place one clear line-trespassing example: When you submit a paper and the reviewer demand a citation.
    – Mefitico
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 14:50
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    @CapeCode In some countries (e.g. mine), citation indexes are used to establish academic promotions at the national level and, indeed, there are rumours of authors creating citation rings to obtain these advantages. So, no, they're neither stupid nor vain, but fraudulent.Stupid are those who devised such a system. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 15:13
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    @CapeCode Really. And the selection according to those parameters is automatic and done at the national level: if you don't reach X citation and H h-index you cannot even apply for a promotion. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 15:29
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    @CapeCode Scopus doesn't filter citations from undetected citation rings, and, thus far, very few have been detected, like in the example I gave in my answer. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 15:46
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    Since many comment mention that two authors citing each other can happen in good faith, I took the liberty of adding a precision to make clear that irrelevant citations are those being considered here. Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 16:10

5 Answers 5


In addition to the terms suggested by Scientist, another relatively common term is citation ring, here ring being used with the meaning (from Merriam-Webster):

7 a : an exclusive combination of persons for a selfish and often corrupt purpose (as to control a market)
b : GANG

Here are a few examples of usage of citation ring:

SAGE Publications busts “peer review and citation ring,” 60 papers retracted

(Retraction Watch)

Some other problems of the method were well outlined by Ulrich Korwitz (pp. 107-110): the problems of self-citation and the citation ring [...]

(T. Roper, "Citation Analysis of the Veterinary Literature: A Tool to Understanding Scientific Communication" in Libraries without Limits: Changing Needs — Changing Roles: Proceedings of the 6th European Conference of Medical and Health Libraries, Utrecht, 22–27 June 1998)

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    This one is new to me and sounds even better, thanks for adding!
    – Scientist
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 11:34
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    Citation ring has the right ring to it (pun absolutely intended)... any chance you could strengthen the answer with a link to where you noticed that usage, like @Scientist did? I've heard of "citation cartels" he mentions (from the source he links), but not of "citation ring" despite you saying it's relatively common.
    – penelope
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 14:25
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    That peer review ring scandal in Taiwan caused an Education minister to resign.
    – Nobody
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 15:03
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    @Scientist Oh my, never realized I might have started an upvote ring on a question about citation rings. If we get any more people in on it, we might even call it an upvote cartel :D
    – penelope
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 16:45
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    My impression was that the terms "citation ring" and "citation cartel" suggest more than 2 authors.
    – Kimball
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 20:15

I believe this is unethical practice but not "officially" misconduct. There is some ongoing research on this, elsewhere. Some sources call this "citation stacking", while others call it "citation cartels". Mind that these terms were coined for journals while they certainly can be applied to authors.

Such citation schemes are an adaptation of other more obvious citation-boosting strategies, such as self-citations or citations demanded by journal editors and reviewers, which are much easier to spot and expose.


These are often referred to as citation circles, or citation cartels. See here.

  • cartel is very apt, plus 1
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 11:47

In the publishing world, it's called "logrolling".

According to wikipedia

Logrolling is the trading of favors, or quid pro quo, such as vote trading by legislative members to obtain passage of actions of interest to each legislative member.

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    This is completely unsourced and different to every other answer. Could you add a reference to where it's discussed under this name?
    – pipe
    Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 12:53
  • I believe that is the term used extensively in "Wit's End", about the members of the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920s. The term is also used in the Wikipedia article on that topic, to describe the practice of making favorable mentions of other members' articles. Commented Nov 29, 2018 at 17:58

Gaming the System – by authors

Gaming the System: Manipulating the Impact Factor in Research (done by authors in the first quoted paragraph, and by journals in the second quoted paragraph):

When it comes to research, many academics tell each other: “You cite my article and I will cite yours.” Academic departments and even the U.S. National Science Foundation have encouraged collaborative research as something positive, which can be true. However, many researchers routinely add their colleagues’ names to their papers as coauthors in order to make the researchers and their departments look good.


After an article is accepted by a journal, the author is oftentimes asked to add a few citations in the research article from that particular publication. Many, including myself, can testify to the practice of coercive citations. Authors now understand what is expected and load their articles with citations from the journal to which they are submitting before they are even asked.

Gaming the System – by journals

Increasing Citations and Improving Your Impact Factor (for journals wanting to increase their citations):

At SAGE, we will help you increase article citations without “gaming” the system with shortsighted strategies that can only compromise perceived quality. We’ll do this by providing editors with the tools to make informed decisions about types of articles and topics they might wish to invite, which potential authors to contact for relevant papers, etc. More generally, all our marketing and online activities are developed with the aim of increasing citations.

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    More generally, all our marketing and online activities are developed with the aim of increasing citations. Part of me just died.
    – Cliff AB
    Commented Nov 30, 2018 at 19:23

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