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01/13/2017

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Aaron Lercher

I'm very happy to learn from Remler that the false 90% uncitedness rate attributed to Meho turned out not to be his own work. Instead the false number was inserted by a mistaken editor. As Remler notes, uncitedness varies greatly between fields.

Bibliometrics has been interested in uncitedness from its start in the early 1960s. Since preferential attachment (past citations of a particular article determines probability of future citations to that same article) only gets underway if there is at least one citation to determine a probability of future citation, a separate assumption is needed about how uncited articles get initially cited. (Self-citation on how to model preferential attachment: doi/10.1002/asi.23312)

As for Remler's idea that the data show that "academic publishing needs fixing," the study she cites on rates of uncitedness shows the opposite. Lariviere, Gingras, and Archambault (a leading bibliometrics research team) conclude:
"All these measures converge to demonstrate that citations are not becoming more concentrated but increasingly dispersed, and one can therefore argue that the scientific system is increasingly efficient at using published knowledge. Moreover, what our data shows is not a tendency towards an increasingly exclusive and elitist scientific system, but rather one that is increasingly democratic." doi/10.1002/asi.21011

Other work by these authors shows that the numbers of references *from* each article increases more rapidly than the total number of published articles. This tendency may partly explain the increasing dispersion of citedness. doi/10.1002/asi.20744

None of this helps defend the humanities against bibliometric mismeasurement. If we're going to measure the efficiency of scholarly communication, this requires a concept of value for communication units. In science, this is somewhat plausible because there are discoveries and dispute over priority of discovery (showing that people value it).

There aren't priority disputes in the humanities. Either this shows there's no value to humanities publications, or else the value of humanities publications is different.

Graham White

I have a background in mathematics, and, from a mathematician's perspective (I do not automatically identify as a mathematician in the current stage of my career, but I can still think that way if needed) there are some things to be said. The first is that a lot of mathematics papers are uncited, but may still be very influential: people don't generally cite all of their sources (except if they are relying very explicitly on a theorem by someone else, and if they use it in exactly the same form as the other person proved it), but they can find other stuff influential. Like many algebraic geometers of my generation, I've been very influenced by Grothendieck's work, but rarely in a way that lends itself to citation. So there's a big distinction between, as it were, influence-in-general and citable influence, and I'm sure this must be true in other fields as well. And a lot of this influence-in-general, at any rate in mathematics and probably in other fields, has to do with forming the culture of the subject. And this only goes to show, I think, that metrics can have very perverse results, and, in particular, that they can discriminate against a lot of the work that goes into forming the culture of a subject, because the culture is propagated other than in citable ways. (This last point comes especially from a mathematician's viewpoint, since mathematicians tend to be very much against metrics.)

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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