The road to higher citation scores

Nieuws | de redactie
8 juli 2015 | Over the last years, scientists have changed their scholarly behaviour from a focus on ‘publish of perish’ to impact factors. But does that lead to more quality? Maastricht-researcher Maarten van Wesel challenges this. “The number of citations a paper receives not only depends on its scholarly value.”

In a blog for the London School of Economics (LSE) Van Wesel who is a PhD-candidate in field of Sociology of Science and Technology at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences elaborates on his research on he influence of publish-or-perish attitudes on publication behaviour.

From quantity to quality?

Van Wesel notes that a shifting focus from publishing to impact of publications should have lead an increase in quality. “This shift in focus suggests a move from quantity to quality, as surely researchers and their managers would want to emphasise the scholarly quality and value of a paper!”

The reality however, shows that factors other than quality measures, also lead to higher citation scores. “Total number of words, the number of authors, author prominence, and the number of references all influence subsequent citation. The authors who, deliberately or not, produce papers with the correct mix of these characteristics become more influential than others in the same field, and will secure more prestige and ultimately perhaps more resources.”

Possible misconduct

Scientists are well aware of these characteristics and their influence on their citation scores. Van Wesel therefore warns for negative consequences. “This is not necessarily unethical, but when these superficial factors are purposely tweaked in order to get more citations it becomes trickier. Adding authors who contributed nothing to the text, lengthening a paper without adding any extra, relevant information, adding unnecessary references etc. can all be seen as misconduct.

With the urge for knowledge valorisation on the rise in academia, there is another factor that might help boost citation scores, Van Wesel sees – and with his blog demonstrates – “Changing evaluation criteria will lead to changes in the behaviour of scholars, as scholars are highly reflexive and responsive to their environments. For instance, the rising importance of Societal Impact will have a positive effect on the willingness of scholars to write blogposts about their research.”

You can read the full blog here

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