Science - February 27, 2017

Spanish professor key figure in citation cartel

Roelof Kleis

The key figure in the alleged citation cartel of European soil researchers in which Wageningen might be involved is the Spanish professor Artemi Cerdà. This was announced by science watchdog Retraction Watch on their website.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Two weeks ago, the European Geophysical Union announced that one of the editors of their open access journals Soil and Solid Earth was involved in the manipulation of citations. No name was given. According to Retraction Watch, the person concerned is Artemi Cerdà, professor at the University of Valencia and a big name among soil scientists. Until recently, Cerdà was President of the Soil System Sciences division of the EGU. Cerdà’s name was stricken off the editor lists of both journals.

Until last week, Cerdà was also chief editor of Land Degradation & Development. In a timespan of merely two years, this journal grew to be the most important journal in soil science. Its impact factor quadrupled to 8.1, a value never previously seen in soil science. Cerdà was chief editor in those years. The Wageningen soil scientist, whom the university has initiated an enquiry into, is also an editor for this journal.

Key figure
A spokesperson of Wiley, the publisher of Land Degradation & Development, has confirmed to Retraction Watch that one of the editors has temporarily stepped down due to an investigation into allegations of ‘irregular citations’. Cerdà is still mentioned as the chief editor on the website of the journal. A document circulating on the internet, which mentions the existence of a citation cartel, also point to Cerdà. According to this research, Cerdà is the key figure in this cartel that would include about fifty people. The Wageningen soil scientist is among them.


The ‘members’ of the alleged cartel are editors of Land Degradation & Development and/or Soil and Solid Earth. The document extensively reports on the findings that the three journals excessively cite each other’s articles. According to the document, authors who want to publish are strongly advised to cite specific articles. This generally involves articles by the abovementioned editors. The people behind this research have remained anonymous.

The three journals gaining in importance (having an increased impact factor) is not the only result of this forced citing: the involved authors do as well through their citation score. The Wageningen soil scientist went from zero citation in Land Degradation & Development in 2013 to 124 citations last year. In that period, her total number of citations went from 38 to 430.

These remarkable numbers are no direct proof, but were enough motivation for the management of the involved chair group to raise the alarm in late 2016. In the meantime, the case is being investigated by the Scientific Integrity Committee of Wageningen University & Research. They are investigating whether the Wageningen soil scientist is guilty of scientific misconduct.

Further reading, including the latest news on this topic (partly in Dutch):

Re:actions 10

  • Barcelona

    Artemi Cerda and cartel still operating with ridiculous citations on low quality papers. The target journal is Science of the total environment. Cartel published 13 low quality papers in Science of the total environment in 2018. Strange all edited by Damia Barcelo

    • Teobaldo

      This editor is the editor-in-chief of at least three journals. Since 2012 (when he was named editor-in-chief), 151 articles have been published under his name in Stoten (he had published only 4 articles in this journal before). For some of these articles he is also Editor and some papers have a lot of their data in common.

  • JackyCola

    Also, three of the most cited publication of Saskia Keestraa in Science of Total Environement have been handled by the same editor, i.e. Damià Barceló.
    Yes, strange

  • jackyCola

    Very good comment El conquistador, I was actually wondering the same!!! They were already publishing quite some papers there but not it's like really clear!
    Regarding citations, Agata Novara is similar: 63 citations in 2015, 622 in 2017(!).

    Have a look at Agata Novara's profil in google scholar:

    She has 2 papers with >110 citations, both from 2016 and both from...Science of the Total Environement!

    They just continue what they were doing before.

    By the way, what about the investigation on Saskia Keestraa at Wageningen ? They started a few months ago and we have no news. It's really a shame for the University to have her still working there.

  • El Conquistador

    I am wandering why the people indicated in the EGU reports (link below) are suddenly publishing so much in Science of the Total Environment (Co-Editors in Chief: Damià Barceló).

    I have an ENVISION… :)

    From 70 (2014) to >1100 (2017) citation per years... in such short time. Well done Prof. Keesstra

  • El Conquistador

    I am wandering why the people indicated in the EGU reports (link below) are suddenly publishing so much in Science of the Total Environment (Co-Editors in Chief: Damià Barceló).

    I have an ENVISION… :)

    From 70 (2014) to >1100 (2017) citation per years... in such short time. Well done Prof. Keesstra

  • Mary

    Professor Paulo Pereira has decided to resign from Land Degradation & Development.

  • jacky

    Artemi Cerda, Agata Novara, Jorge Mataix-Solera, Saskia Keesstra are all part of this citation cartel. It is really clear when you go to their public researchgate page. Apparently, Wageningen is the only university starting an investigation. Other people involved in the citation cartel will have not problem. For example, Agata Novara is still in the scientific committee of the next Wageningen Soil conference, why ? This person has more than 50% of her citation from 5 people (I let you guess the names). She got the EGU best young scientist award in 2016, the jury were...the members of the cartel! She should give back this price and EGU should return it to a honest scientist, there are plenty like this. In a few years this citation cartel will be forgotten and maybe it worse doing it like this, the managed for some of them to get more than 1000 citations from this system...

    • An

      Sir, when you publish the same amount of papers in her short career, we can talk about the problems with the citations. Or publishing 35 jcr is also related to the citation cartel?
      She is a really good person and scientist. I knew her in a couple of meetings. Please, respect for the young people.

    • martin jurgensen

  • Ann

    A typical coervive citation review in Solid Earth
    I suggest publication, although I will recommend the authors to review the paper in the following way. The paper needs an general introduction about the soils in the Earth System and how important they are . . . and to show some literature update Something like:
    (Cite My papers and papers in LDD)

    • Mars

      Saskia Keesstra manipulating citations.
      An article about Apricot orchard published in 2016 received 74 citations (Google Scholar) within a year. Most citations from SOIL, LDD and cartels
      Effects of soil management techniques on soil water erosion in apricot orchards
      Auteurs: Saskia Keesstra, Paulo Pereira, Agata Novara, Eric C Brevik, Cesar Azorin-Molina, Luis Parras-Alcántara, Antonio Jordán, Artemi Cerdà
      Science of the Total Environment

  • Peter Weyn

    Artemi Cerda fake reviews systematically recommending authors the addition of some references in their manuscripts are detectable.
    In this paper Prof. Artemi Cerdà decison was Publish subject to technical corrections (27 Feb 2015) by
    Artemi: I wish to suggest some recent publications be cited to make the paper even more updated and helpful. (5 LDD papersAnd finally two papers from SOIL that show the need of a broad view of the soil problems which are clearly show in your paper)

    Publish subject to technical corrections (27 Feb 2015) by Prof. Dr. Jorge Mataix-Solera (Executive Editor) : “Dear authors, please see the technical corrections suggested by the Topical Editor. Kind regards. Jorge”


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  • dr. Visser

    Jammer dat Resource de onderstaande bronnen niet heeft meegenomen waarin het bestaan van dit vermeende kartel wordt weerlegd.