Thought of the Day

January 29, 2014

Should I cite my research articles “diversely”?

That is, should I give the slightest thought to whether the people I cite, the lab heads in particular, represent the full diversity of my field? Of my country? The world?

If I consider this at all, am I compromising the purity and integrity of my research manuscripts?

13 Responses to “Thought of the Day”

  1. AcademicLurker Says:


    If you have your choice of N review articles to cite when referring to some well known fact in the field, and one of them is authored by a member of an underrepresented (in science) group, I don’t see any particular reason not to cite that one.


  2. DrugMonkey Says:

    Should one sort of check oneself? Do a mental review of the POC or women or foreign or wtfever scientists in one’s sphere and ask whether they are cited enough? In ones own papers and the field in general.


  3. DrugMonkey Says:

    Follow up- if there is any extent to which you cite to suck up to a power that is, what does this mean for entrenching status quo?


  4. Counting and awareness is always good. Always. Then at least we can know and decide what to do about it next.

    People cite based on science-celebrity names over the actual science content all the time–which,as you mention, entrenches status quo. In my mind, science done from a range of backgrounds and perspectives is better science. Our experiences shape how and what questions we ask. Always be mindful, and if the opportunity comes, cite a wider range of perspectives. Actively combating the inertia of homogeneity is a good thing.


  5. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Are you limited to the number of citations?

    And yes, one best practice in hiring is to go through the groups you might have implicit bias against and make sure that they’re not better than the people you picked. The same thing makes sense for citations– go through and make sure that you’re not citing them for a valid reason in comparison to the papers you are citing. Go through the authors’ cvs and make sure you’re picking up on their related work that you may have missed because other authors are implicitly biased against them.


  6. whizbang Says:

    Much of the time I have no idea what the racial/ethnic/gender/other identities of my references are. They are literally names out of pub med if I haven’t met them at a meeting.
    I agree that promoting diversity is good, but I would not be willing to put in the time to figure out who is what when writing a grant or paper. I just want to cite the reference.


  7. drugmonkey Says:

    So, you are saying you don’t see race, whizbang?


  8. Unless I’m trying to be exhaustive, I actually do try to cite “diversely” in a way, i.e, if there are three papers from big name lab that says X and one paper from lesser known lab that also says X around the same-ish time period, I’ll cite one from each instead of 2 or 3 from the big name lab (assuming of course the study is decent; if it’s rubbish I won’t cite it no matter where it’s from, even (or should I say especially) if it is in Nature). I def try to spread the love a bit when I can (and within reason), but I don’t take into consideration geography or ethnicity etc.


  9. @whizbang
    I think it would be hard to distinguish many ethnicities by name alone, but I’d bet a Chang is probably not Italian (although maybe in the area around Prato it could be!). Another issue is gender. While most European-derived names have clear implications, I have literally no way of telling in most Asian names, for example. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing…


  10. drugmonkey Says:

    Is it so odd that I know a lot of the heads-of-labs that I cite by sight, due to conference participation, seminar, study section and the like? You folks don’t generally know at least the PI’s general characteristics?


  11. Hermitage Says:

    I’m a n00body, but I do try to spread citations around in terms of BSD vs non-BSD. There’s not really enough diversity in my field to cite ‘diversely’ any other way really…*sigh*


  12. @dm I think it depends on the size of the field you are working on. Or fields if you end up wearing several hats. In bioinformatics and genomics nearly every new project has a different community to deal with, and with the bench-science bias that biology has, you end up siting lots of experimental results of lots of people you’ve never heard of even if your project has little or no experimental work itself.


  13. The Other Dave Says:

    Are you serious? If I am reading your paper, I do not want the bibliography to be some wild goose chase of political correctness.


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