One of my hobby horses is scientific fraud. 25 years ago I wrote an article entitled "Fake" which reviewed scientific fraud through the ages. As a result I am now the major source for the realisation that there is no more iron in spinach than in lettuce leaves. This was not a fraud but a simple mistake because somebody put the decimal point in the wrong place. I have retained my interest in it and today came across this reference from COPE, the committee on publication ethics.
Manipulation of a journal’s impact factor
An editor had been recently sacked from her/his job as an assistant editor with a medical research journal. The editor stated that “s/he believed that the reason for his/her dismissal was in large part motivated by disagreements with the editor in chief over several editorial policies at the journal.”
During the review process it was common practice for the editorial staff to ask authors to add references to the journal in their submitted articles.The editorial staff sometimes asked the authors to find “pertinent” references themselves and sometimes suggested references that should be added. The editor was told by the editor in chief to imply, but not overtly state to authors, that the acceptance of their submissions depended on these additions.
Although some refused, many of the section editors of the journal—under pressure from the editor in chief—would determine possible references to be added and then state that one or more of the anonymous referees had insisted on these additions during the peer review process.
The sacked editor had archived examples of this and other policies that consistently manipulated the impact factor at the journal during her/his employment. Several previous employees have also stated their willingness to testify on this matter.
A journal's impact factor is its life blood. Researchers only get grants and promotion if they publish in journals with high impact factors. All the best papers therefore go to a few journals. Journals are in a competetive market and are therefore keen to raise their impact factor by whatever means possible.
The impact factor is determined by dividing the number of times papers published in the journal are quoted in other joournals in the first 2 years after publication divided by the number of papers published in that journal. Therefore if papers quote more papers in the references at the end it raises the impact factor of the journals that those papers were published in.
The quote from COPE names no names, but it sounds very like a case that I as editor of Leukemia Research reported to COPE in 1997 about our rival Leukemia and which was cited in both the BMJ and Lancet. http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/314/7079/461/d