How to boost the ranking of your university using self-citations? An example of the weaknesses of university ranking systems
The example provided in this opinion article shows that it is now possible for a single academic to drastically increase the ranking of its university by abusing one of the weaknesses of a given ranking system. Due to the importance of these rankings nowadays in the media or public opinion, it is time to design a resilient and reliable ranking which can annihilate future potential manipulations and pressures from university administrations or governments. Indeed, we can easily imagine a university pushing professors to self-cite their work to increase the global ranking, and thus affecting universities and academics trying to do their job honestly. Other parameters may be as well easy to abuse to boost significantly a ranking artificially (for example: parameters involving ratios of staff and/or students). Such manipulations would be very detrimental to the quality of research and teaching worldwide in the future.
It is time for the university ranking organisations to have a serious self-critic on their weaknesses and to think together with the academics about a ranking system which could be robust enough to annihilate such manipulations. Ideally, the ranking should push universities to increase the quality of their research and teaching, instead of encouraging academic misconduct. The credibility and the reputation of the academic world are now on the line.