Juan Manuel Corchado: More than 150 professors on the University of Salamanca demand that their rector not examine himself | Science | EUROtoday

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One of the oldest universities on this planet, Salamanca, is experiencing an uncommon scenario. On June 11, the Spanish Research Ethics Committee urged the establishment to train “its powers of inspection and sanction” within the face of “the alleged bad practices” of its personal rector, Juan Manuel Corchado. More than 150 professors have now signed an announcement to demand that their rector not examine himself, to “safeguard the prestige of the University of Salamanca and eliminate any suspicion of bad practices or permissiveness with them on the part of the institution.” , based on the textual content, to which EL PAÍS has had entry.

Corchado, professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, boasted of being one of many 250 most cited scientists on this planet in his discipline, due to a resume bloated with hundreds of self-citations, dozens of faux profiles and written orders to his employees to that they cited him 20 instances in every job. The 151 signatories—134 energetic professors and 17 retired—think about “the constitution of a commission made up of independent experts from outside the University of Salamanca” to be “essential” with the intention to confirm the details.

“Because the internal investigation should be initiated and supervised by the rector, and given the clear conflict of interest that this entails, we ask the University of Salamanca to take the appropriate steps so that the Junta de Castilla y León, as a responsible administration, of the university system of the autonomous community […]urgently open a verification procedure with the relevant legal guarantees of transparency and impartiality,” the statement continues.

The signatories of the statement put a proposal on the table. “As these events may affect the prestige of the Spanish university and scientific system, we recommend that you contact the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) in order to propose independent experts from outside the University of Salamanca for the investigative commission.” , they point out. The scientific community views the situation in the Salamanca rectorate with astonishment, as explained by Alfonso Valencia, director of the Life Sciences department at the National Supercomputing Center in Barcelona. “This is a tremendously serious case that undermines the image of the country. I'm in a meeting in Brussels with scientists from all over the world. How do I explain to them that this happens before our eyes and no one stops it?” Valencia asks.

Biologist José Aguilar Rodríguez, from Stanford University (United States), also shows his indignation. “I find it incredible that Corchado remains in positions of great academic and scientific power, considering the magnitude of his fraudulent practices, which are well documented and have reached frankly ridiculous levels. If it weren't for the seriousness of the matter, everything he has done would even be comical,” says the scientist.

“We are talking about someone who should not be teaching or mentoring future researchers. How can it be that someone who has so flagrantly betrayed scientific ideals is training future generations of researchers? I am very concerned about the damage it has already caused and could continue to cause to young researchers. It is a very sad situation,” laments Aguilar Rodríguez.

This is a tremendously serious case that undermines the image of the country

Alfonso Valencia, National Supercomputing Center

The president of the Junta de Castilla y León, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco, supported Corchado at his enthronement ceremony, on May 31. “It is an honor for me to participate in this inauguration ceremony. Congratulations, rector. Congratulations, dear Juan Manuel,” Fernández Mañueco then declared. Those present applauded Corchado for a minute, even though his tricks were already known. EL PAÍS published evidence of his bad practices on March 15, April 26 and May 30. Two years earlier, the American organization Retraction Watch, specialized in scientific fraud, already documented the thousands of self-citations by Corchado and the existence of strange profiles of scientists dedicated to compulsively quoting him. Despite this, the professor won the elections for rector on May 7, with 474 votes in favor among permanent professors (tenured and full professors), 401 blank and another 48 void. He was the only candidate.

The Springer Nature publishing house has also begun an investigation into Juan Manuel Corchado, after the publication in EL PAÍS of internal messages that show that the professor organized a dating cartel: a group of researchers organized to mention his studies even if it was not relevant. Its traps are easily verifiable: there are many papers in conference proceedings published in Springer Nature in which more than 90% of the references are irrelevant citations to Corchado. With the help of this artificial prestige, the professor has achieved projects worth millions of euros for his group at the university or for his private entity, the AIR Institute.

The largest public body for funding science in Spain, the State Research Agency, suspended on June 14 as a precautionary measure its collaboration with the professor from Salamanca, who until now had had a role as an evaluator, with influence in the distribution of money. public of the institution, which manages a budget of 1,420 million euros annually.

The new statement asks that Corchado's case not affect the rest of the institution. “The professors who subscribe to this manifesto consider that suspicion regarding the aforementioned scientific practices cannot be extended to the entirety of an institution with the prestige and history of the University of Salamanca, nor can it be ignored by the members of the university community. “, they emphasize. Among the signatories there are 41 energetic professors, reminiscent of Juan Santos Vara, of International Law, and José María Díaz Mínguez, of Genetics; and professors like Ana Cuevas, from Philosophy; José Manuel Bustos, Translation; and Nuria del Álamo, from Social Work. The full checklist of signatories, to which this newspaper has had entry, will not be public as a result of many are afraid of reprisals. The greater than 150 signatures have been gathered in simply sooner or later.

Faith of errors: An earlier model of this text mentioned that the president of the Research Ethics Committee from the University of Salamanca is Bertha Gutierrez, who has supported Corchado and is certainly one of his vice-rectors. Bertha Gutiérrez is now not president of the USAL Research Ethics Committee for a couple of days.

Do you may have extra details about this case or different comparable ones? You can write to us at mansede@elpais.es. Follow MATERIA in Facebook, X, Instagram or subscribe right here to our bulletin.

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https://elpais.com/ciencia/2024-06-18/mas-de-150-profesores-de-la-universidad-de-salamanca-exigen-que-su-rector-no-se-investigue-a-si-mismo.html