Citation Gimmicks

Scientists are a bickering bunch. Great discussion over at, which, among other things, is a new home for science bloggers who defected from Science Blogs after it imploded.

Anyway, DrugMonkey asked his readers:

How often do you consider, in any way, the identity of the journal in which a finding was published when making your choice?

I was happy to weigh in.

I don’t consider the journal. I do, however, consider the number of citations a paper has already garnered especially if it’s older.
If it was published in 2001 and only has two citations, then it’s probably not the best citation source.
I use Web of Science for this chore.

That comment didn’t go over well with some. Pinus:

wow…people pick what papers to cite based on how many citations it has? seriously? Based on that, once a paper gets enough citations, it is becomes unending loop of building citations?

I pick based on what I am saying. For reviews and other general points that don’t quite require a primary citation, I cite somebody who I think will review it.

DrugMonkey agrees:

Yeah, pinus, agree the circularity is weird. Citing the most-cited also recipe for misciting if you ask me.

I push back directly.

Circularity is weird? Maybe if you’re already an expert in your field, writing reviews, etc. As a recent Master’s graduate I think it’s both a time saver and legitimate practice. Sure, there are times when I think it’s appropriate to shirk this short-cut, but I don’t know enough about my new field to do it all the time.
I think citation nepotism is far more troubling than citing established papers.

DrugMonkey dodges and the conversation goes elsewhere.

If by citing nepotism you mean preferentially choosing your tight science homies’ papers, I’m not really seeing where that is any more objectionable than the practices described in this comment thread.


(Why was I the only one to use my real name?)

[Read more from DrugMonkey @ Scientopia]

[image via thagirion]

September 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading.


  1. Keith replied:

    When the people questioning you are handled Pinus (and maybe I’m pronouncing this one wrong) and Drugmonkey…well their credibility is, in my book, a little bit shot. I can see your logic in choosing an article that is cited more often, especially as a newb, if you lack the experience to know when research has it’s BS in waste management, rely on those that do.

  2. philliposophy replied:

    lol at your pronunciation comment.
    I think they had some OK points though. It’s not ideal to use number of citations as a metric for quality. If they just left it at that though, it would’ve been one thing. Instead it seemed like they wanted to say that their shortcuts were somehow more legitimate/scholarly and everyone else’s were lazy.
    I guess everyone engages in pissing contests from time to time.

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