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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 8:pp10 (2008)  -   doi: 10.3354/esep00091

Hidden dangers of a ‘citation culture’

Peter A. Todd1,2,*, Richard J. Ladle2

1Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, 117543, Singapore
2Oxford University Centre for the Environment, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK

ABSTRACT: The influence of the journal impact factor and the effect of a ‘citation culture’ on science and scientists have been discussed extensively (Lawrence 2007; Curr Biol 17:R583–585). Nevertheless, many still believe that the number of citations a paper receives provides some measure of its quality. This belief may be unfounded, however, as there are 2 substantial areas of error that can distort a citation count or any metric based on a citation count. One is the deliberate manipulation of the system by scientists trying to ensure the highest possible number of cites to their papers; this has been examined elsewhere (Lawrence 2003; Nature 422:259–261). The second area of inaccuracy is inherent to how papers are cited, indexed and searched for. It is this latter, lesser known, source of error that we will investigate here.

KEY WORDS: Bibliometrics · Citation counts · h-index · g-index · Assessment · Scientists

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ESEP THEME SECTION: The use and misuse of bibliometric indices in evaluating scholarly performance