Ariel University offers to pay researchers to add affiliation to publications

[Note by AURDIP : Ariel University is located in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel located in the occupied West Bank of Palestine.]

Council for Higher Education budget committee says it will investigate the matter.

Ariel University recently published an unusual call for papers in which it asked researchers to cite the institution as an academic affiliation in works they publish and in grant applications, in exchange for payment. No mention of a prohibition against simultaneous affiliation with another academic institution was made.

The announcement, which appears on the Ariel University website, in Hebrew, says the university seeks research fellows from Israel and abroad for its new center for Jewish and Israel studies.

Duties include submitting at least one article a year to a recognized academic journal, applying for at least one outside research grant a year, “occasionally” participating in the center’s events, helping to organize conferences and preparing publications issued by the center.

In return, Ariel University promised to pay the fellows direct grants for their articles appearing in peer-reviewed academic journals and noting their affiliation with the university, in addition to a salary paid out of any research funds they obtain for the university.

According to the announcement, the center seeks as research fellows candidates with a doctorate in any Jewish studies subject. Candidates are to be chosen by a search committee.

The conditions specified in the announcement are unusual because generally an academic affiliation with an institution includes teaching or research duties in exchange for a salary, rather than a salary paid as compensation for publishing articles or for research grants.

Usually the salary of a faculty member in Israel is not conditioned on publishing articles. In addition, universities do not enable any researcher who so desires to submit research grants in their name.

The Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education in Israel was unaware of the phenomenon before it was brought to its attention by Haaretz. The committee said it would investigate the matter.

“It seems to be uncommon and surprising conduct by an academic institution,” said a senior CCHE official who asked to remain anonymous.

Israeli research universities are allocated funding based on the number of academic articles that are published by members of their faculty. Ariel is scheduled to be included in this budgeting model beginning in 2017. At the same time the committee counts the university’s publications to ensure that it is meeting the target for a gradual increase in the number of research studies.

This week Haaretz wrote about another case in which a U.S. researcher, Prof. Ephraim Suhir, who admitted that he had never even visited Ariel University, was described as an unsalaried research fellow who attributes his articles to the university. The university claimed that he collaborates with another researcher from the university but Suhir admitted that they hadn’t written anything together.

Four years ago the website of Science magazine reported that King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia had signed a part-time employment agreement with 60 leading researchers whose articles are cited most frequently. This was done in order to artificially inflate the number of citations of its studies – which affects its prestige in international indexes. Ariel University may be using similar methods in order to increase its academic rankings.

Ariel University said in response that “scientific activity by research fellows in the context of research institutions are common in the academic world in Israel and abroad. Research fellows who are not members of the university’s senior faculty constitute part of its research community.. and contribute to promote research and scientific publications in cooperation with the senior faculty at the university. In order to encourage research fellows to publish their studies in scientific journals the university is willing to allocate money for the purpose.”

The university claimed that “the professional staff of the Planning and Budgeting Committee is aware of the activity of the research fellows in Ariel University. We would like to emphasize that the studies published by fellows who are not members of the senior faculty do not entitle the university to any monetary compensation from the PBC.”