Paper Citations: The tortoise and the hare

July 22, 2011

I’ve noticed a peculiar thing lately.

One of my collaborations over the years led to papers that seemed to garner a higher citation rate than other aspects of my work. At first it was ever so slightly disturbing that the collaborative papers got more attention, so I thought. Over time, as I grew to understand that citation is HUGELY skewed by field size and vigor I stopped worrying about such matters.

The funny thing is that my other papers have been catching up. Turns out that the collaborative work tended to have bigger initial splashes but much less staying power. Some of my other areas of interest have much lower initial citation rates in the first few years after the work was published. But the cites just keep ticking away at about the same low rate over time.

I find this gratifying. Sure, it would be nicer to have more people citing my work in the initial couple of years, anyone who says otherwise is nuts. But to have the work continue to be relevant to people’s scientific thinking over time is pretty important to me as well. So cite for cite, I think I’d actually prefer mine spread out more. Maybe even over a timeline as long as a decade.

So what about you folks? If you were forced to choose between initial big splash papers that disappeared and ones that had a slow and steady citation rate, which would you prefer? Which gratifies you more as a scientist?

What crossover point would you see as justifying slow/steady over big splash? Five years? Ten years? Twenty?

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No Responses Yet to “Paper Citations: The tortoise and the hare”

  1. Namnezia Says:

    Some of my PhD thesis papers are still being cited, more than ten years later. My current work? Not so much. But things do seem to pick up after a couple of years.

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  2. Neuro-conservative Says:

    Dude, clearly faster is better — it will contribute to your h-index sooner and for a longer period of time.

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  3. Dude, get a fucken dripep on yourslef and stop publishing your shitte in fufdkenc shitholes. If you published iun decent hournals with real impact factpors, you wouldn’t be looking on fucken ISI every fucken dat to decide whether to kill yoursellf or not. Publish in a journal with a legitimatre impaqct factror, and you don’t hve to worry about “cites”.

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  4. Neuro-conservative Says:

    Memo to Scribbler50 — CPP has had enough MFJ for one night. Time to cut him off; he’s seriously slurring his words.

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  5. Confounding Says:

    I think it largely depends on the stage of one’s career. For example, since the time horizon for me involves job hunting, if I could get every citation possible in the first two years, I’d do it.

    I’d love it if my work had a lasting impression, but when it comes down to it, I’d like a good job more. And the latter will probably help the former in the long run.

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  6. GMP Says:

    In my field it’s not uncommon to have a couple of years pass before citations pick up: people need to read your paper, do their own work, write a paper, have it reviewed, and have it appear in print before you get a citation. Citations “in passing” (someone just mentions your work as one of many, they don’t actually substantially rely on it) do pick up faster.
    Of course, the timeline is shorter for really hot stuff or high-profile review articles.

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