Gambling with somebody’s reputation (Part 4): The story behind the story

Today, The Times Higher published a story about me (‘Mark Griffiths – the professor who publishes a paper every two days’) written by the journalist Jack Grove. Mr. Grove has had contact with me by both email and telephone over the past few months and I have given him full answers to every question he has asked me. Mr. Grove originally contacted me in July after Professor Dorothy Bishop had written a blog about me. I published a couple of blogs responding to both the blog by Prof. Bishop and my responses to Mr. Groves’ earlier enquiries. Mr. Groves was very interested in the number of papers I had published this year and he appeared to be questioning to what extent I had co-authored all the papers published this year. Straight after him contacting me, I emailed every co-author I had published with this year and within 24 hours, almost all of them had emailed Mr. Grove back outlining the contributions I had made to all the papers I had co-authored. On July 21, Mr. Grove emailed me and said:

“Dear Mark. Sorry for not contacting you yesterday – I am considering how to proceed with this story given the testimonials that I have received from your collaborators, and the responses provided to Professor Bishop from the journal editors whom I also contacted and your blog. As such, I’m putting things on hold for now. As many of your more senior collaborators stated, your publication rate is unusually high and does raise questions about these papers so you can see why I was interested to find out more. The responses were very informative in other ways too.”

Within minutes of receiving this email, I responded and said:

“Hi Jack. As I said, I was very happy to talk to you and very happy to go through how I do what I do. I have done nothing wrong. If you want to revisit the story, then feel free to get in touch”

Mr. Grove got in touch with me again towards the send of September, and on late afternoon September 29, I had a 45-minute conversation covering many differing aspects of my research and publishing strategies. I began the interview by asking what the focus of Mr. Grove’s was going to be and I made it very clear that I had concerns that the planned article was going to be a “hatchet job” on me. Mr. Grove said that was not his intention and that he genuinely wanted to know how I do what I do. We talked both on and off the record, and I was nothing but honest and gave straight answers to straight questions. The conversation included my day-to-day writing and editing routines, my strategies for writing and publishing, who I worked with, how I worked with them, my internal and external collaborators, publishing with students (including undergraduates, and in particular my collaborations with Md. Abdullah Mamun, and how our research collaboration began), “gift authorship” (something I had never heard of before), my affiliations (I said my only affiliation was NTU but Mr. Grove said I had multiple affiliations on Scopus and asked whether this was a deliberate ploy to help NTU up the world league table of university rankings), and my relationship with the gambling industry (Mr. Grove said he had talked to others in my field and said that I “gave the gambling industry an easy ride”).

Straight after the interview, I sent Mr. Grove some further emails clarifying some of the things I had said. The first email (sent at 5.30pm, September 29) said:

“Hi Jack. You should read this very short article that I wrote on gambling funding which briefly outlines my position on the issue.”

Attached to my email was a copy of: Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2015). Research funding in gambling studies: Some further observations. International Gambling Studies, 15, 15-19). The second one I sent was at 6.35pm and said:

“Hi Jack. You asked me in our phone call about my contributions to paper and specifically asked me about publishing with Md. Abdullah Mamun. Attached is the first paper I worked on with him and these are three versions I worked on before submission. There was then a fourth version (also attached) that addressed the reviewers’ comments and was eventually published in Psychiatry Research. I also attach the response letter that I wrote. I would draw your attention to Version 1 (the first file attached) as this gives you a very clear idea of my typical input to papers as it goes way beyond “editing” that you were trying to suggest earlier on. I will repeat what I said verbally. My name only appears on those papers where I have made an intellectual contribution. You also appeared to suggest that it is OK in the sciences for there to be over 2000 authors on a paper but not in the social sciences. I don’t think that’s OK at all. I’m still not sure why you think what I do is somehow suspect compared to the 500+ academics in the UK that have published more papers than me”.

Mr. Grove replied to me the next day (September 30, 11.15am) and said:

“Thanks Mark. This is useful to see the process that is used – it will do my best to communicate this model of critical revision that you describe. While it is certainly time-consuming and important for the paper, the concern is that this input is generally at a late stage in the research process – whereas social science scholars, in particular, are generally involved across the entire lifespan of a piece of a study – hence why most scholars in these disciplines struggle to publish more than one or two pieces a year. Thanks for speaking to me yesterday – I am certainly not aiming at a hatchet job, as you suggest. Your method, however, is fairly unusual and it may be helpful to explain it – as, from the outside, many might assume you’re benefiting from the ‘gift authorship’ practices seen in the sciences, which I’ve examined and been critical of in my previous stories…PS, I have attached a screenshot from Scopus – which seemed to suggest various affiliations beyond NTU, but it seems this is more to do with a clerical error on behalf of publishers. However, I thought it best to raise the issue – which, you were, understandably perplexed by”.

I read Mr. Grove’s email after coming out of a very long meeting that I had been in that day (30 September, 2:02pm). I responded by saying:

“Hi Jack. Sorry for not responding sooner but I have been in meetings since 10am this morning. For the record I only have only had one affiliation since October 1, 1995 – Nottingham Trent University. Any other affiliations attributed to me on any database is someone else’s mistake not mine. Your suggestion that I was somehow systematically manipulating the situation with regards to affiliations to increase Nottingham Trent University’s position in the world league tables are (in my opinion) totally unfounded and not something had ever even entered my thoughts until you mentioned it to me. I hope my article on gambling funding explain my position on these matters. I also want to counter your proposition that I “give the gambling industry an easy ride” (which is what I wrote down in my notes of yesterday’s chat). I will send to you in a different email dozens of papers published over the past few years which show that is simply untrue and unfounded.

I have never heard of the term ‘gift authorship’ and totally dispute the idea that such publications are a ‘gift’ (simply based on the sheer amount of work I have to do to get them into a publishable state). I estimate that less than 2% of all the refereed papers I have ever published come from researchers sending me papers to contribute to. As I said yesterday, I get sent such papers every week and the overwhelming majority are returned with my comments highlighting why I am not taking them up on their offer. The overwhelming majority of my papers are co-written with (i) my PhD students (I have had 44 to date), (ii) MSc/BSc project students that I have supervised, and (iii) papers from joint research projects with my international colleagues”

Straight after sending that email, I sent another email (at 2:08pm) in which I sent Mr. Grove some confidential material demonstrating the kind of emails I get sent regarding contributing papers and how I declined these. At 2.18pm, I sent another email with 42 of my recent papers on gambling (2018-2020). I wrote:

“Hi Jack. Please find attached a selection of my recent papers on gambling. The suggestion that I give the industry an easy ride is clearly not the case based on the papers attached. I have loads more that I am happy to send.”

Finally, Mr. Grove got in touch with me again on October 9 asking if he could interview me again about some things he forgot to ask me in our first conversation. I replied and said I was happy to speak to him the next day. At 4.21pm (October 9) I also emailed Mr. Grove with responses to further things he wanted to ask me about. I copied his questions into an email and gave my responses. Here are his questions and my unedited responses.

JG: Just a word to say I’ve been slightly sidetracked by other things so the interview won’t out until next week at the earliest. Thanks for speaking me – the one question that I didn’t have chance to ask you was about citations and your h-index.

MG: Happy to talk about this but for the record these are secondary to my work and simply a by-product of my passion for research.

JG: I think the reason why Dorothy Bishop chose to write about you was that she is interested in what she has described as ‘citation circles’, in which groups of researchers loosely connected cite each other’s work a lot. 

MG: I’ve never heard of a ‘citation circle’ and it’s not something I personally engage in or have ever engaged in. I’ve publicly outlined my strategies for increasing citations (attached) [I attached the following article to my email: Griffiths, M.D. (2015). How to improve your citation count. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 96, 23-24].

JG: I don’t know if this is true for you and your colleagues, but I did notice that you cite your own work quite a lot (perhaps unsurprisingly if you have 1,500 publications), so I wondered if you could comment on these two issues. 

MG: I cite my own work where appropriate and to be honest I can’t think of anyone that I know who doesn’t. However, self-citation does not count on Scopus

JG: Also, are your levels of self-citation to be expected, particularly when you work in a fairly niche area? 

MG: Since when is behavioural addiction a niche area? Most of my departmental colleagues ask me how they can move into a more mainstream area like mine.

JG: Can I also ask why you choose to publish a lot in certain publications. I don’t know the field of psychology that well but it seems there are more prestigious outlets, with a higher h-index, than the journals you tend to favour (which are entirely legitimate and have a decent h-index). 

MG: I publish my work in the journals which are the most read in my field including many interdisciplinary journals because many of my papers have no psychology in them at all. You clearly have no idea about my areas of research interest. I publish in the top journals in my field. You seem to be focusing on the number of papers in specific journals rather than the percentage of papers I publish in specific journals as a percentage of my total outputs.

JG: An academic with your h-index would normally be expected to publish regularly in the very top journals, so I’d be interested to know why you’ve gone for the more niche gambling journals than those that are more widely read and cited.

MG: I do publish regularly in the top journals in my field as well as those that I know are most read by researchers in my field. I told you very explicitly in a previous interview that I am a disseminator and that I want my work to be read and applied. I told you that one of the proudest moments in my career was getting my first full page ‘by line’ in The Sun – and even published about this in a blog for the British Psychological Society in 2011 (attached). In the last REF, my research was singled out as being of 4* quality and world-leading. REF impact has little to do with publishing in a particular journal – it is based on how your research is used in the real world.

Mr. Grove then said that he would ring me the next day but he didn’t. His article was published today. However, Mr. Grove was true to his word. He didn’t do a “hatchet job” on me and the things I discussed ‘off the record’ remained so. For that I must thank him most sincerely.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Gambling research and the search for a sustainable funding infrastructure. Gambling Research, 21(1), 28-32.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). My Pride. British Psychological Society Research Digest, February 9. Located at: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2011/02/mark-griffiths-my-pride.html

Griffiths, M.D. (2015). How to improve your citation count. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 96, 23-24.

Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2015). Research funding in gambling studies: Some further observations. International Gambling Studies, 15, 15-19.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. In 2013, he was given the Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 800 research papers, five books, over 150 book chapters, and over 1500 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 3500 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on October 22, 2020, in Addiction, Case Studies, Gambling, Psychology, Work and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Being a PHD student and doing my research on Internet Gaming Disorder, it was very enriching to follow the studies of doctor Griffiths. With my respect to the many researchers in the field of gaming disorder, when reading the papers developed by professor Griffiths or he is co-author of a paper, I would recognize the important touches of his expertise and understand the development of ideas based on deep analysis of data and perspectives. Doctor Griffiths in many papers provides pertinent comments to other colleagues in the field when their interpretations seem to be unclear or going backward to the beginning of researches in the field of IGD. This is an opportunity to express as well my appreciation to him and to many professors among them doctor Daria Kuss, doctor Daniel King, doctor Pontes, and doctor Delfabbro who as well excel in this field of researches on the Problematic Internet Use and IGD. ( sana, Beirut, May 29, 2021)

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