"Why me?" That was the defensive reaction of T.G. Ventnor, our Professor of Leisure Studies, to the allegation that the learned journal of which he is editor had displayed "anomalous citation patterns".
This complaint followed the news that three medical science journals had been excluded from a publication listing the impact factors of scholarly titles for attempting to increase their own impact ratings by encouraging authors to include references to those journals in their citations.
In response to questions from our reporter Keith Ponting (30), Professor Ventnor conceded that the self-citation rate in his own journal, The British Journal of Swings, currently stood at 52 per cent, compared with a rate of 3 per cent in other academic journals. He also agreed that he had "from time to time" encouraged authors of articles accepted for his journal to maximise the number of citations for The British Journal of Roundabouts, a title edited by a close colleague.
However, by way of mitigation, Professor Ventnor claimed that "everyone was at it" and that he had been picked on only because he had been less cautious than the editors of such other high-rated leisure journals as The British Journal of Listening to Records.
He also defended an article in which he had cited his own work 243 times. He told Ponting that as nobody had paid any attention whatsoever to all this work, it was about time someone chose to mention its significance. The fact that he was this "someone" was "frankly neither here nor there".
Can't pay. Won't pay
Our Head of Overseas Recruitment, Geraldine Transept, has issued new guidelines for academics involved in the recruitment of undergraduates from European Union countries outside the UK.
Whereas the traditional protocol concentrated upon compatibility of entrance requirements and the candidate's ability to write and speak English, the new pro forma (which we print in full below) highlights rather more contemporary priorities:
How nice to speak to you Mr/Ms (insert name of prospective EU student). You sound like someone with an eye to the main chance. Am I right? Well then, get this. If you come to Poppleton University you won't have to pay a single penny of our fat fees. Not a brass farthing. You can borrow the whole bleeding lot, the entire £9,000 a year, from the government-backed Student Loans Company and then, when you've got your degree in the bag, you can go straight home, move into a good job and happily become one of the army of EU students who either default on their fee repayments or forget about them altogether.
You hear what I'm saying? Not only do you get your degree for nothing, for zilch, for nix, but you will also enjoy bragging rights over your fellow English students who will have the cost of their fees docked from their eventual wage packet. Sounds too good to be true? But it's the God's honest truth. And it doesn't look likely to change in the near future because that would mean the government having to admit that its whole tuition fees policy is up the creek.
So then, Mr/Ms (insert name), which of our entirely free degrees most tickles your foreign fancy?
Thought for the week
(Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development, is on spiritual retreat.)