There's an unusual trend on the rise in South Korean academia: professors are naming children and teens as co-authors on their research, likely to boost their resumes for college admissions.
The practice, which first prompted government scrutiny in 2017, has only grown more common since then, according to Nature News.
While the South Korean education ministry treats unjustified authorship as a serious type of academic misconduct, the risk may be worth it for students facing intensely competitive university admissions.
A new report from South Korea's education ministry accused nine more scientists of the practice, bringing the total number of potentially mis-authored academic papers up to 24, Nature reports.
While some of the kids listed as authors may have actually contributed to the studies that list them as authors through school programs or internships, others were the children of the lead authors or their relatives and friends, which the South Korean government sees as a clear sign of misconduct and academic nepotism.
The problem is likely larger than current reports suggest, experts told Nature. And, unfortunately, it works.
In its new report, the education ministry found several cases in which students were admitted to universities after listing the questionable academic papers in their applications.
"I don't like colleges emphasizing publications in admission process because high school students cannot be involved in research seriously," Sungkyunkwan University materials scientist Changgu Lee told Nature, "and because publication achievement can be misused for admission."