Juan Manuel Corchado: More than 150 professors at the University of Salamanca demand that their rector not conduct his own research | Science

One of the oldest universities in the world, Salamanca, is experiencing an unusual situation. On June 11, Spain's Research Ethics Committee urged the institution to “its powers of inspection and sanction” in light of “the alleged bad practices” of his own headmaster, Juan Manuel Corchado. More than 150 professors have now signed a statement demanding that their rector not conduct research himself, in order to “safeguard the prestige of the University of Salamanca and remove any suspicion of malpractice or permissiveness on the part of the institution. ” the text, to which EL PAÍS has had access.

Corchado, professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, boasted about this one of 250 scientists most cited in the world in their field, thanks to an inflated resume thousands of self-citationstens fake profiles and orders written his employees to call him twenty times for every job. The 151 signatories – 134 active professors and 17 retired – consider “the composition of a commission composed of independent experts from outside the University of Salamanca” as “essential” to verify the facts.

“Because the internal investigation must be initiated and controlled by the Rector, and given the clear conflict of interest it entails, we ask the University of Salamanca to take the appropriate steps so that the Junta de Castilla y León, as 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 chairman of Research Ethics Committee from the University of Salamanca Bertha Gutierrezwho has supported Corchado and is one of his vice-rectors.

The signatories of the statement put a proposal on the table. “As these events may affect the prestige of the Spanish university and the scientific system, we advise you to contact the Conference of Rectors of Spanish Universities (CRUE) to propose independent experts from outside the University of Salamanca to the investigative committee,” they emphasize. The scientific community views the situation in the rectorate of Salamanca with surprise, as explained Alfonso Valencia, Director of the Life Sciences Department at the National Supercomputing Center in Barcelona. “This is an extremely serious matter that undermines the image of the country. I'm in one meeting in Brussels with scientists from all over the world. How can I explain to them that this is happening before our eyes and no one is stopping it?” asks Valencia.

The biologist José Aguilar Rodriguez, from Stanford University (United States), also shows his outrage. “I find it incredible that Corchado still holds positions of great academic and scientific power, given the extent of his fraudulent practices, which are well documented and have reached frankly ridiculous levels. Without the seriousness of the matter, everything he did would even be comical,” says the scientist.

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

This is an extremely serious matter 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 in his accession to the throne, May 31. “It is an honor for me to take part in this opening ceremony. Congratulations, principal. Congratulations, dear Juan Manuel,” Fernández Mañueco then declared. The people who are here They cheered for a minute to Corchado, despite the fact that its traps were already known. EL PAÍS published evidence of its bad practices Mar. 15, 26 April And on May 30. Two years earlier, the American organization Retraction Watch, specialized in scientific fraud, had already documented Corchado's thousands of self-citations and the existence of strange profiles of scientists dedicated to this quote him compulsively. Despite this, the professor won the elections as rector on May 7, with 474 votes in favor among the permanent professors (tenured professors and full professors), 401 blank and another 48 invalid. He was the only candidate.

Publisher Springer Nature has also started an investigation into Juan Manuel Corchado, following the publication in EL PAÍS of internal messages showing that the professor a dating cartel: a group of researchers who organized to mention their studies even if they were irrelevant. The pitfalls are easy to verify: there are many articles in conference proceedings published in Springer Nature in which more than 90% of the references They are irrelevant quotes for Corchado. With the help of this artificial prestige, the professor has achieved this million euro projects for your group at the university or for your private entity, the AIR Institute.

The largest public science funding body in Spain, the State Research Agency, was suspended on June 14 out of precaution his collaboration with the professor from Salamanca, who until now had a role as evaluator, influencing the distribution of public funds of the institution, which manages an annual budget of 1,420 million euros.

The new statement asks that Corchado's case not impact the rest of the institution. “The professors who endorse this manifesto believe that the distrust regarding the above-mentioned 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. , the signatories emphasize.

Do you have more information about this case or other similar cases? You can write to us at mansede@elpais.es. To follow SUBJECT in Facebook, X, instagram or subscribe to our here bulletin.

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