Fake Citations Plague some Google Scholar Profiles

05/12/2017 11:06

by Cat Ferguson (Retraxtion Watch)


In November 2014, microbiologist Enrico Bucci emailed us with concerns that several of the citations listed on his Google Scholar profile were fake.

Colleagues of his had noticed the same problem on their pages.

One of the “articles” that was linked to Bucci’s Scholar profile last week 


The listings seem to be real titles, researchers, and publications, but scrambled. When Bucci first spoke with us, the Scholar citations all linked to clearly fake pages on a site hosted by e-commerce giant Alibaba. You can see an example here (that’s a screenshot above).


Google hasn’t responded to a request for comment from Retraction Watch, but since we contacted them, the links have been disappearing, replaced by unlinked citation notices (you can see a screenshot of one below).

fake citation

Here’s Bucci’s theory:

Out of the blue, my Google Scholar Profile included some publication which was never authored by me…These citations were actually fabricated by someone removing the true authors and attaching my name (and those of some coauthors of mine) to a true paper (abstract, title and journal are ok; the year is sometime wrong)​.

It appears that Google Scholar is taking this citation as genuine – and pushing it in my Google Scholar profile (I think they use automatic indexing, relying mostly on coauthors for disambiguation of author names).

There is a clear intent of making money out of it. The site hosting these “faked” papers sells the pdf versions of them. There is a page containing the description and the conditions for this service which is here. http://www.lw20.com/Agreement.aspx

Try Google Translate on it.

At this point, I think they are grabbing the pdf papers from publishers, the indexing from google scholar (albeit with some mismatches in author names), then they translate abstract and titles in Chinese – so that Chinese scholars may find the papers – and try to sell the papers via their platform.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to game Google Scholar.  We’d like to know how deep this problem runs. Do you have any fake references in your Scholar profile?


Update, 3:40 p.m. Eastern, 11/17/14: Several scientists have reached out to tell us about their own experiences with fake citations.

Geologist Anne Jefferson tells us that her Google Scholar profile is accurate, but a number of fake papers with the same titles as her real publications are still available at http://lw20.com/, the Alibaba site that is hosting the odd chimeras. She told us:

I think your correspondent’s theory is correct. Lw20 is scraping the journals, quite poorly and then in some cases google scholar is getting tricked by the mismatched authors into thinking there is more than one paper.

Shark researcher and blogger David Shiffman had one of the fake papers show up on his profile, but he deleted it:

It was super easy. You right click on it and say “remove” and check a confirm box.



[Note: Looks like people and organizations outside of science and medicine are catching on to all this scientific -- and THUS medical -- fraud, especially when it affects their own businesses or interests. Note the article (in “Weedend Reads”) about researchers themselves that are going back to older articles for the same reason -- to when "data" was accurate and trustworthy, scientific fraud was almost not heard of -- and definitely investigated, not allowed and severely punished. The same corruption has probably been happening across the academic fields over the years. Reminds me of when we First Generationer grad students at the KIE/Georgetown (1980’s) discovered we had to do the same thing in order to find reliable references that we could successfully defend university-wide and internationally for our doctorates in philosophy and ethics! The older literature was far more trustworthy (from the 1950’s - 1970’s) than the newer literature written by supposed academics who had no academic degrees in the fields they were writing about, or degrees that were so watered down that they were equivalent to the same. If a reliable journal refused to publish many of the articles written by the new bioethics founders early on, they simply started their own journals. Note that since "bioethics" wasn't invented until 1978, bioethics didn't exist before that, and thus none of the Founders of "bioethics" ever had a course or a degree in "bioethics" themselves! Even today most "professional" bioethicists have no academic degrees in bioethics or just attended a seminar or two. Imagine a bioethicist (whose academic degree was in Mennonite theology -- period) who was allowed to use the title of “Professor of ObGyn” and “Professor of Medicine” simply because he taught bioethics in the Georgetown Medical School’s Department of ObGyn! Been downhill ever since.  The article first appeared here.-- DNI]