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Researchers Feel Pressure To Cite Superfluous Papers 107

ananyo writes "One in five academics in a variety of social science and business fields say they have been asked to pad their papers with superfluous references in order to get published. The figures, from a survey published in the journal Science (abstract), also suggest that journal editors strategically target junior faculty, who in turn were more willing to acquiesce. The controversial practice is not new: those studying publication ethics have for many years noted that some editors encourage extra references in order to boost a journal's impact factor (a measure of the average number of citations an article in the journal receives over two years). But the survey is the first to try to quantify what it calls 'coercive citation,' and shows that this is 'uncomfortably common.' Perhaps the most striking finding of the survey was that although 86% of the respondents said that coercion was inappropriate, and 81% thought it damaged a journal's prestige, 57% said they would add superfluous citations to a paper before submitting it to a journal known to coerce. However, figures from Thomson Reuters suggest that social-science journals tend to have more self-citations than basic-science journals."
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Researchers Feel Pressure To Cite Superfluous Papers

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  • by ub3r n3u7r4l1st ( 1388939 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @01:48AM (#38924611)

    Here is one that might be relevant:

    Reason 33. There is too much academic publishing. []

    When one's job is on the line (i.e. tenure-track faculty), people will do almost anything.

  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @02:48AM (#38924859) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, but if you go down that path, you wind up with mathematics being nothing but a tool, more a part of the process of science than science itself. Mathematics alone tells us nothing about the universe, other than that mathematics can be derived in it (and then you get back to whether or not you've really derived anything since the foundation is ultimately belief).

  • Re:Happened to Me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zachie ( 2491880 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @05:22AM (#38925375)

    Including copious references is not only a way to "pay homage to existing academics". It makes sure that you went through the literature to see if your contribution is really a novelty, and forces you to compare your work against others', which is great both for the expert in the field to better understand your contribution, and for the non-expert, who gets pointers to better grasp some parts or to navigate towards the important papers of a field of research. These are still very important, even if you think your work is technically sound.

    I'm talking out of my ass now, and it depends on the research area and the paper, but "It needs more references if you want to get published" might be a polite way for your acquaintances to say, have you provided sufficient motivation for the problem you are solving, thoroughly explored the literature for related proposals, you should compare your ideas against other papers', etc.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @06:05AM (#38925491)

    The overwhelming majority of papers are read once and then never read again. I know that much.

    This is especially true of people drawing conclusions rather then reporting data.

    It's actually odd that they focus on asking graduate students to draw novel conclusions when it probably more useful to ask them to discover novel data. No interpretation. Just come up with an experiment or find something that has never been measured before. Then report in detail everything so it can be repeated or remeasured.

    Most reports would probably be more useful.

    There's nothing wrong with spending your life collecting dots for other people to connect. It's an absolutely vital portion of science. Too often sciences get too theoretical... too full of conjecture. Science is supposed to be about empiricism. Which requires 99 percent data and 1 percent conclusion.

  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @06:44AM (#38925651) Journal

    In my (former researcher who left to industry) opinion/experience its not the editors who put the pressure, but the possibility that you ignored a work of somebody who is important enough to referee for Nature or Science. There are some components of these phenomena:

    a) Maybe the work really is important, and you did not know it because it's too long ago. There is usually nothing wrong with a referee saying "hey that is similar to what [xyz]" did, even if they are on the list of authors on the reference in question.

    b) some referees dont react positively to not getting cited and will shoot down any paper not referring to *their* theory for other reasons (i believe that happened to me once)

    c) In the abstract (which is the part really read by the editors before the refereeing process) you compare your paper to the previous publications. Authors are under the impression that comparing your work to previous important papers makes a better impression. How far this is true i cant judge. I found the editor stage *before* the refereeing in Nature and Science the most intransparent thing I have experienced as an author. Unlike the refereeing process there is no way to appeal, there is not information on what the editors disliked so much to refuse directly. (There is the saying that once you had Nature/Science papers it gets more likely to pass this stage, and i have seen at least one example of a paper being passed to Nature which for sure would have been rejected by the editors had it come from a less important group in the field)

  • Re:Metrics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheTurtlesMoves ( 1442727 ) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @08:32AM (#38926093)
    Impact factor is such a awful and quite unscientific metric. I hate it. However after 2 postdocs i need to move on, and first screening of applicants is often done with impact factor of your papers. Even worse some journals can jump large amounts year to year.

    As a reviewer i have often suggested citations that IMO where missing. In fact some scientist deliberately leave out citations that may have inconvenient viewpoints/data/results, I have such a paper that once side of the debate just pretends does not exist. Out of all the times i have reviewed and suggested citations, i have only suggested one of my papers once. Also i typically don't require anonymous review, ie i give my name when permitted.

A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.