Saturday, December 10, 2011

Academic Scam of the Year

It was only a matter of time, and this should not be surprising at all to those who have been watching JEE toppers being claimed by several different cramschools as their students [link, link]. I heard about the scam from a highly cited researcher from India a while ago, and it's great to see some fabulous reporting by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee of Science on the audacity of it all:

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

Kirshner's colleague is not alone. Science has 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. ... [Bold emphasis added]