Academic metrics and the community engagement of tertiary education institutions: emerging issues in gaming, manipulation, and trust

Abstract

Community engagement has played central roles in tertiary education, expanding the potentials for academic as well as civic enhancement. Such efforts are often undertaken in part with the use of metrics, as tertiary education institutions attempt to reach various community audiences with quantitatively-supported defenses of their missions, through research analyses and publications, and with their participation in formal institutional ranking systems. However, dramatic expansions of the use of metrics and the importance of publications in academics have fostered gaming and manipulation practices designed to enhance artificially both individual and institutional reputations, including predatory journal administration, coercive citation, forced joint authorship, paper mill and ghostwriting efforts, H-index manipulation, creation of bogus documents, development of fraudulent academic conferences, and many others, as well as falsified research itself. As they emerge in the press or in watchdog reports, such questionable practices can disturb delicate negotiations concerning the respective roles of communities and academic institutions as well as be perceived by some community members as violations of trust. The practices can be especially harmful when associated with celebrity or “star” academics who often are granted substantial institutional leeway. This study maps an assortment of these emerging practices from a community engagement perspective; it also analyzes recent discourse as to the impacts the normalizations of these problematic practices are having on community-academic interactions. It discusses strategies toward making production and use of academic metrics and related research output less easily manipulated and more worthy of trust both by academic participants and the community as a whole.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Aguillo, I. F., & Orduña-Malea, E. (2013). The ranking web and the “world-class” universities. In Building world-class universities (pp. 197–217). Rotterdam: SensePublishers.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Altbach, P. (2015). Academic corruption: The continuing challenge. International Higher Education, 38, 5–6.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Arend, R. J. (2017). Conflicts of interest as corrupting the checks and balances in the postpublication oversight of academic business journals. Journal of Management Inquiry. https://doi.org/10.1177/1056492617715323.

  4. Bachmann, R., Gillespie, N., & Priem, R. (2015). Repairing trust in organizations and institutions: Toward a conceptual framework. Organization Studies, 36(9), 1123–1142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Baldwin, M. (2018). Scientific autonomy, public accountability, and the rise of “peer review” in the cold war United States. Isis, 109(3), 538–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bhagwan, R. (2017). Towards a conceptual understanding of community engagement in higher education in South Africa. Perspectives in Education, 35(1), 171–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Biagioli, M. (2016). Watch out for cheats in citation game. Nature News, 535(7611), 201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Bidner, C., & Francois, P. (2010). Cultivating trust: Norms, institutions and the implications of scale. The Economic Journal, 121(555), 1097–1129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Bishop, D. V. M. (2018). Fallibility in science: Responding to errors in the work of oneself and others. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, 1(3), 432–438.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bowen, H. (2018). Investment in learning: The individual and social value of American higher education. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bowman, J. D. (2014). Predatory publishing, questionable peer review, and fraudulent conferences. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 78(10), 176 1-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Braun, T., Bergstrom, C. T., Frey, B. S., Osterloh, M., West, J. D., Pendlebury, D., & Rohn, J. (2010). How to improve the use of metrics. Nature, 465(17), 870–872.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bretag, T., Harper, R., Burton, M., Ellis, C., Newton, P., & Rozenberg, & van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating: A survey of Australian university students. Studies in Higher Education, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2018.1462789.

  14. Campanario, J. M. (1995). Commentary: On influential books and journal articles initially rejected because of negative referees' evaluations. Science Communication, 16(3), 304–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Campbell, R. (2016). “It's the way that you do it”: Developing an ethical framework for community psychology research and action. American Journal of Community Psychology, 58(3–4), 294–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Caon, M. (2017). Gaming the impact factor: Where who cites what, whom and when. Australasian Physical & Engineering Sciences in Medicine, 40(1), 273–276. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13246-017-0547-1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (2008). Community engagement elective classification. Retrieved July 28, 2008, from http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/index.asp?key=1213. Accessed 1 March 2019.

  18. Chan, M. (2018, September 28). Chinese military crackdown on forged data and plagiarism in science and technology research. South China Morning Post (Online), Hong Kong: South China Morning Post Publishers Limited.

  19. Chapman, D. W., & Lindner, S. (2016). Degrees of integrity: The threat of corruption in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 41(2), 247–268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Darbyshire, P. (2018). Fake news. Fake journals. Fake conferences. What we can do. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 27(9–10), 1727–1729.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Davison, R. M. (2018). The ethics of extended revisions. Information Systems Journal, 28(2), 263–265.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Deering, D., & Sá, C. (2018). Do corporate management tools inevitably corrupt the soul of the university? Evidence from the implementation of responsibility center budgeting. Tertiary Education and Management, 24(2), 115–127.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Denisova-Schmidt, E. (2018). Corruption, the lack of academic integrity and other ethical issues in higher education: What can be done within the Bologna process? In European Higher Education Area: The Impact of Past and Future Policies (pp. 61–75). Springer, Cham.

  24. Devos, T., Spini, D., & Schwartz, S. H. (2002). Conflicts among human values and trust in institutions. British Journal of Social Psychology, 41(4), 481–494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Doyle, J., & Cuthill, M. (2015). Does ‘get visible or vanish’ herald the end of ‘publish or perish’? Higher Education Research and Development, 34(3), 671–674.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Driscoll, A., & Lynton, E. A. (1999). Making outreach visible: A guide to documenting professional service and outreach. Washington, D.C.: American Association for Higher Education.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Driscoll, A., & Sandmann, L. R. (2016). From maverick to mainstream: The scholarship of engagement. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 20(1), 83–94.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Eden, L., Dean, K. L., & Vaaler, P. M. (2018). Retraction: Mistake or misconduct? In The ethical professor (pp. 65–79). New York: Routledge.

  29. Edwards, M. A., & Roy, S. (2017). Academic research in the 21st century: Maintaining scientific integrity in a climate of perverse incentives and hypercompetition. Environmental Engineering Science, 34(1), 51–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Elliott, J. E. (2017). Prestige auditing and the market for academic esteem: A framework and an appeal. Prometheus, 35(1), 57–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Fifolt, M. (2017). Diploma mills: How for-profit colleges stiffed students, taxpayers, and the American dream. College and University, 92(3), 75.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Fighting fraud. (2018). Nature, 561(7723), 285–286.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Fitzgerald, H. E., Bruns, K., Sonka, S. T., Furco, A., & Swanson, L. (2016). The centrality of engagement in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 20(1), 223–244.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Fitzgerald, H. E., Van Egeren, L. A., Bargerstock, B. A., & Zientek, R. (2017). Community engagement scholarship, research universities, and the scholarship of integration. In Learning Through Community Engagement (pp. 31–51). Springer, Singapore.

  35. Fitzpatrick, G., Friedman, B., Höök, K., Olson, J. S., & Russell, D. M. (2018, April). Daring to change: Creating a slower more sustainable academic life. In Extended Abstracts of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (p. panel06). ACM Press.

  36. Garza, C., Stover, P. J., Ohlhorst, S. D., Field, M. S., Steinbrook, R., Rowe, S., Wotecki, C., & Campbell, E. (2019, Forthcoming). Best practices in nutrition science to earn and keep the public's trust. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy337.

  37. Gasparyan, A. Y., Nurmashev, B., Voronov, A. A., Gerasimov, A. N., Koroleva, A. M., & Kitas, G. D. (2016). The pressure to publish more and the scope of predatory publishing activities. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 31(12), 1874–1878.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Gavrila, S. G., & Ramirez, F. O. (2019). Reputation management revisited: US universities presenting themselves online. In Universities as Agencies (pp. 67–91). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

  39. Gone, J. P. (2017). “It felt like violence”: Indigenous knowledge traditions and the postcolonial ethics of academic inquiry and community engagement. American Journal of Community Psychology, 60(3–4), 353–360.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Hamblin, J. (2018, September 24). A credibility crisis in food science. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/09/what-is-food-science/571105/. Accessed 1 March 2019.

  41. Han, X., & Appelbaum, R. P. (2018). China’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research environment: A snapshot. PLoS One, 13(4), e0195347.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Harley, B., Faems, D., & Corbett, A. (2014). A few bad apples or the tip of an iceberg? Academic misconduct in publishing. Journal of Management Studies, 51(8), 1361–1363.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Haug, C. J. (2015). Peer-review fraud—Hacking the scientific publication process. New England Journal of Medicine, 373(25), 2393–2395.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Heffernan, T. A., & Heffernan, A. (2018). Language games: University responses to ranking metrics. Higher Education Quarterly, 72(1), 29–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Heitman, E., & Litewka, S. (2011). International perspectives on plagiarism and considerations for teaching international trainees. Urologic Oncology, 29, 104–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Heyneman, S. P. (2014). How corruption puts higher education at risk. International Higher Education, 75, 3–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Heyneman, S. P. (2015). The corruption of ethics in higher education. International Higher Education, 62, 8–9.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Hirschman, A. O. (1970). Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Howard, R. M. (1995). Plagiarisms, authorships, and the academic death penalty. College English, 57(7), 788–806.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Ives, B., Alama, M., Mosora, L. C., Mosora, M., Grosu-Radulescu, L., Clinciu, A. I., & Dutu, A. (2017). Patterns and predictors of academic dishonesty in Romanian university students. Higher Education, 74(5), 815–831.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Jennings, W. G. (2018). Citation trajectories of academic stars from the “hit parade”. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 29(2), 249–266.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Jessop, B. (2017). Varieties of academic capitalism and entrepreneurial universities. Higher Education, 73(6), 853–870.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Jones, L., & Wells, K. (2007). Strategies for academic and clinician engagement in community-participatory partnered research. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 297(4), 407–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Kezar, A. J. (2004). Obtaining integrity? Reviewing and examining the charter between higher education and society. The Review of Higher Education, 27(4), 429–459.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Kline, C., Asadian, W., Godolphin, W., Graham, S., Hewitt, C., & Towle, A. (2018). From “academic projectitis” to partnership: Community perspectives for authentic community engagement in health professional education. Engaged Scholar Journal: Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, 4(1), 79–96.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Kozinets, R. V. (2017). Flow my bits, the professor screened: Netnography, academic micro-celebrity, and personal branding. In Digital tools for academic branding and self-promotion (pp. 52–65). Hershey: IGI Global.

  57. Kun, Á. (2018). Publish and who should perish: You or science? Publications, 6(2), 18–36. https://doi.org/10.3390/publications6020018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Lachapelle, P. R., & McCool, S. F. (2012). The role of trust in community wildland fire protection planning. Society & Natural Resources, 25(4), 321–335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Lewis, L. S. (2018). Scaling the ivory tower: Merit and its limits in academic careers. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Lin, S. (2013). Why serious academic fraud occurs in China. Learned Publishing, 26(1), 24–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Liu, M. C. M. (2017). Conformity, resistance, and gaming: The impact of World University ranking on faculty scholarship at a Taiwanese university. PhD Dissertation: The University of Wisconsin-Madison.

  62. Macfarlane, B., Zhang, J., & Pun, A. (2014). Academic integrity: A review of the literature. Studies in Higher Education, 39(2), 339–358.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Marcus, A., & Oransky, I. (2018). The data thugs. Science, 359(6377), 730–732. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.359.6377.730.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Mavisakalyan, A., & Meinecke, J. (2016). The labor market return to academic fraud. European Economic Review, 82, 212–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Mavrogenis, A. F., Panagopoulos, G. N., Megaloikonomos, P. D., Panagopoulos, V. N., Mauffrey, C., Quaile, A., & Scarlat, M. M. (2018). Scientific misconduct (fraud) in medical writing. Orthopedics, 41(2), e176–e183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. McKiernan, E. C. (2017). Imagining the “open” university: Sharing scholarship to improve research and education. PLoS Biology, 15(10), e1002614.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Metzger, W. P. (1961). Academic freedom in the age of the university (Vol. 12). New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Michler, J. D., Masters, W. A., & Josephson, A. (2018). Beyond the IRB: Towards a typology of research ethics in applied economics (no. 2172–2018-8198), 1–18.

  69. Moran, J. (1998). Cultural studies and academic stardom. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 1(1), 67–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Munafò, M. R., Hollands, G. J., & Marteau, T. M. (2018). Open science prevents mindless science. British Medical Journal, 363, k4309. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k4309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Newton, P. (2018). How common is commercial contract cheating in higher education? Frontiers in Education, 3, 67. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2018.00067/full. Accessed 1 March 2019.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  72. Nixon, E., Scullion, R., & Hearn, R. (2018). Her majesty the student: Marketised higher education and the narcissistic (dis) satisfactions of the student-consumer. Studies in Higher Education, 43(6), 927–943.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Okada, E. (2018). Knowledge corruption and governance in academic knowledge-intensive organizations: The case of molecular mutations research. Journal of Public Affairs, 18(1), e1698.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Oleksiyenko, A., & Tierney, W. G. (2018). Higher education and human vulnerability: Global failures of corporate design. Tertiary Education and Management, 24(3), 187–192.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Oravec, J. A. (2004). The transparent knowledge worker: Weblogs and reputation mechanisms in KM systems. International Journal of Technology Management, 28(7–8), 767–775.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Oravec, J. A. (2013). Gaming Google: Some ethical issues involving online reputation management. Journal of Business Ethics Education, 10, 61–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Oravec, J. A. (2017). The manipulation of scholarly rating and measurement systems: Constructing excellence in an era of academic stardom. Teaching in Higher Education, 22(4), 423–436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. Ponte, D., Mierzejewska, B. I., & Klein, S. (2017). The transformation of the academic publishing market: Multiple perspectives on innovation. Electronic Markets, 27(2), 97–100.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  79. Pooley, J. (2018). Metrics mania: The case against academia.Edu. hCommons. Retrieved from https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:17533https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:17533. Accessed 1 March 2019.

  80. Pradhan, B., & Pradhan, A. (2017). Dealing with plagiarism in scholarly communication. International Journal of Library and Information Studies, 7(3), 67–73.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Reeves, M. (2004). Academic integrity and its limits in Kyrgyzstan. International Higher Education, 37(Fall), 22–24.

  82. Schrecker, E. (2010). The lost soul of higher education: Corporatization, the assault on academic freedom, and the end of the American university. New York: New Press.

    Google Scholar 

  83. Shore, C. (2018). How corrupt are universities? Audit culture, fraud prevention, and the big four accountancy firms. Current Anthropology, 59(S18), S92–S104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  84. Singer, B. D. (1989). The criterial crisis of the academic world. Sociological Inquiry, 59(2), 127–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  85. Singh, S., & Remenyi, D. (2016). Plagiarism and ghostwriting: The rise in academic misconduct. South African Journal of Science, 112(5–6), 1–7.

    Google Scholar 

  86. Smith, R. (2018). The business of academic publishing: “A catastrophe”. The Lancet, 392(10154), 1186–1187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  87. Smyth, J. (2017a). Cultivation of the ‘rock star’ academic researcher? In The Toxic University (pp. 99–123). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

  88. Smyth, J. (2017b). The University as an instrument of ‘class’. In The Toxic University (pp. 125–147). Palgrave Macmillan, London.

  89. Spence, C. (2018). ‘Judgement’ versus ‘metrics’ in higher education management. Higher Education, 1–15.

  90. Stöckelová, T., & Vostal, F. (2017). Academic stratospheres-cum-underworlds: When highs and lows of publication cultures meet. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 69(5), 516–528.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  91. Strathern, M. (Ed.). (2000). Audit cultures: Anthropological studies in accountability, ethics, and the academy. Psychology Press.

  92. Täljedal, I. B. (2013). Publish and perish: A note on a collapsing academic authorship. In Transformations in Research, Higher Education and the Academic Market (pp. 145–153). Springer Netherlands.

  93. Turnley, W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (1999). The impact of psychological contract violations on exit, voice, loyalty, and neglect. Human Relations, 52(7), 895–922.

    Google Scholar 

  94. Vinyard, M., & Colvin, J. B. (2018). How research becomes impact: Librarians helping faculty use scholarly metrics to select journals. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 25(2), 187–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  95. Wallenburg, I., & Bal, R. (2018). The gaming healthcare practitioner: How practices of datafication and gamification reconfigure care. Health Informatics Journal, 1460458218796608.

  96. Warren, A. M., Sulaiman, A., & Jaafar, N. I. (2014). Social media effects on fostering online civic engagement and building citizen trust and trust in institutions. Government Information Quarterly, 31(2), 291–301.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  97. Weerts, D. J., & Sandmann, L. R. (2008). Building a two-way street: Challenges and opportunities for community engagement at research universities. The Review of Higher Education, 32(1), 73–106.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  98. Welch, M., & Plaxton-Moore, S. (2017). Faculty development for advancing community engagement in higher education: Current trends and future directions. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 21(2), 131–165.

    Google Scholar 

  99. Wilsdon, J. (2016). The metric tide: Independent review of the role of metrics in research assessment and management. Newbury Park: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  100. Woelert, P., & Yates, L. (2015). Too little and too much trust: Performance measurement in Australian higher education. Critical Studies in Education, 56(2), 175–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  101. Yang, R. (2016). Toxic academic culture in East Asia. International Higher Education, 84, 15–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jo Ann Oravec.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Oravec, J.A. Academic metrics and the community engagement of tertiary education institutions: emerging issues in gaming, manipulation, and trust. Tert Educ Manag 26, 5–17 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11233-019-09026-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Community engagement
  • Academic publications
  • Academic reputation
  • University rankings
  • Scholarly metrics
  • Institutional ethics