Self-Citation will not make you go blind

July 24, 2012

From this post at Scientific American:

Fowler and Aksnes (2007) did another research on the Norwegian database, but this time it was author rather than publication oriented. The percentage of author self-citation was rather low – 11% – but every self-citation yield, on average, 3.65 citations from others in 10 years. Fowler and Aksnes concluded that “self-citation advertises not only the article in question, but the authors in question.”

So yeah. Cite your own papers. Liberally.
Fowler, J. H., & Aksnes, D. W. (2007). Does self-citation pay? Scientometrics, 72 (3), 427-437 DOI: 10.1007/s11192-007-1777-2

No Responses Yet to “Self-Citation will not make you go blind”

  1. david Says:

    my favorite paper on the topic of self-citation (and, no, I am not the author):

    J Sex Med. 2009 Apr;6(4):897-8.
    Aberrational blots or practice shots? The impact of “self-citation”.
    Pfaus J.


  2. Crystal Voodoo Says:

    Perhaps I’m being obtuse but how exactly do you not self-cite, at least in the biological sciences. Realistically how often do you have a one project = one manuscript situation? If you are building results from information you have previously published then you have to reference it or the conclusions don’t make any sense. That is completely ignoring the whole “protocol performed as previously described” in the methods section without which we would all end up plagiarizing ourselves.


  3. DrugMonkey Says:

    But every paper should be a “complete story”, CV, so why would there be any follow up? Every paper an innovation!


  4. Crystal Voodoo Says:

    Now I’ve got this vision of an R01 study session saying “Dear PI, we would love to fund your R01 renewal but our records indicate that you have already published a manuscript on the project and are therefore ineligible for continued funding.”


  5. DrugMonkey Says:

    If you cite yourself than clearly you are writing LPU studies and that is bad. For some reason. That nobody can convincingly explain. But definitely Bad.


  6. Virgilstar Says:

    I’m with CV on this. There is such a thing as a paper which comprises a “complete” story at the current moment in time, and is therefore worthy of publication, but which can subsequently be added to as knowledge and new methods become available. This is not least-publishable-unit-ism, it’s just the way things play out sometimes.

    Case in point – publishing on a particular phenomenon based entirely on pharmacologic evidenc. Unfortunately the knockout mouse is not currently available. Then a couple years later the KO becomes available, so you get the mouse and write a second paper showing the phenomenon is “real” (genetic evidence) and citing the pharma paper in the intro’ as providing the rationale. This is self-citation, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

    What could you do differently… Sit on the pharm’ data until the KO comes along, and publish it all together, probably getting scooped in the process because your competitors put out a quick paper based on pharm’ data while you were waiting? Or maybe try to make the KO yourself (got $30k to spare?) and delay publishing until the story is complete.

    Sure, both these approaches would result in a really tight story that could probably end up in a glamor mag, but the risk of being scooped, the expense, the effect on # of papers per grant, progress reports etc. are just too much. All just so you can avoid citing yourself?


  7. drugmonkey Says:

    Real Scientists do exactly as you describe…..go big or go home!!!!


  8. Lady Day Says:

    I enjoy the 0.65 citations on top of the 3 extra that my self-citations yield. Makes all the difference. And, just so you know, my pit bull cites my papers in hers.


  9. Crystal Voodoo Says:

    Extrapolating from the “go big or go home” statement how then would you describe an expert in a field? Someone with only one big publication or someone with a history of multiple publications on the topic? Rationally a scientific career is built upon a branching series of project extensions otherwise you would need to essentially rebuild your lab every time you deemed a project done and got your one publication. How many separate projects would you need in the works to get tenure? How many grants would you need to keep your lab running? A lab would need to be nearly unsustainably large to be considered successful by any metric we currently use.

    It seems to me that science is more like 1001 Arabian Nights. There are complete units (not necessarily LPUs) that are capable of standing alone but can contribute to the larger body of knowledge. The alternative is complete scientific reductionism with no context to the larger picture.


  10. […] Take notice. Self citation is a tool to have others discover you did write some other papers on the subject. Or related subjects. And then… Just take advantage when nobody else will promote your own results. Rate this:Share this:StumbleUponDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]


  11. Crystal Voodoo Says:

    And clearly because my rabble is feeling particularly roused I will posit a scenario. Consider two labs working on essentially the same project, not necessarily competing, but approaching it from different angles. Lab #1 discovers X but sits on it because they want Y and Z before they publish. Lab #2 is looking at V and W. If Lab #2 knew about X they could easily find V and W but they won’t know that X exists because Lab #1 is hoarding the information. Lab #2will spend ridiculous amounts of time and money on bad avenues of research because they don’t know any better. In addition to time and money wasted the field as a whole is set back however long it takes for Lab #1 to publish plus the time it takes for Lab #2 to do better tests. The field could have the entire alphabet a lot faster if the self-contained increments are published rather than waiting for big science.


  12. drugmonkey Says:

    Sure but then we wouldn’t know who is totally awesome and who is lamesauce. Science and Nature über alles!!!!


  13. Crystal Voodoo Says:

    Clearly we need to find a superior method to determine an awesomesauce quotient. I propose annual agarose wrestling tournaments. The winner can get to wear the superior science pants for a year and earn the right to mention it at every meeting and in casual conversation for the rest of their natural lives.

    For future reference I am aware that I’m being baited but I was desperately needing a cathartic spleen venting. I feel better now. Thank you.


  14. FunkDoctorX Says:

    Yea, but what you’re missing is that the IF for Scientometrics is a meager 1.966. Thus, this research is clearly rubbish and shouldn’t be trusted…


  15. Even going “big science” isn’t going to eliminate self-citation — I’m a member of the NIH’s Human Microbiome Consortium (200+ researchers) because of some of the bioinformatics analyses I did, meaning whenever I cite one of the “glamour mag” articles attributed to the consortium, I’m technically citing myself — even if the reason I’m citing it has nothing to do with what I did on the project.


  16. AcademicLurker Says:

    Web of Science nicely breaks out “total citations” and “total without self-citations” if you create a citation report. If the difference between those 2 numbers isn’t too large you’re fine.

    On the other hand

    Total citations: 8,000

    Total without self-citations: 500

    Then you might have a problem…


  17. AcademicLurker Says:

    I hear they’re going to create a special “Total citations by Physioprof” metric any day now.


  18. Alex Says:

    If you aren’t being cited by Physioprof you aren’t a motherfucking player and you shouldn’t even be in motherfucking science at all!!!11!1!


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