Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The problem of self citation

I recently read a couple of review articles about topics I am trying to learn about. What was really striking was how much the authors cited their own work. Indeed, in one review the majority of references were those of the author!

Sometimes it is very appropriate that authors cite their own work.  This previous work is relevant and the current work builds on the foundations of earlier work by the author. Sometimes it gives necessary background and more detail for understanding the current work.

However, there are bad reasons for authors to cite themselves.
1. It is a cynical exercise in boosting their own citation metrics.
2. They actually don't care what others are doing.
3. They don't want to acknowledge other work which contradicts or criticises their own, or at least presents an alternative picture of the problem.

Most people are concerned about 1, and this is certainly a legitimate concern, particularly as metric madness increases.
My focus is more on 3.

When I see this predominance of self-citation in an area I know little about my questions are:
- Does anyone else care about this topic and/or the authors approach?
- Is the author hiding something?

1 comment:

  1. This also tends to happen when a field is small. I worried about that when I wrote a RMP colloquium; essentially all of my papers had to be cited. Though 80% of the papers cited were still from other groups. I found 20% self citation bothering me, but did not find another way.