Monday, 16 February 2015

How to Increase Citations of Your Scientific Articles


How to Increase Citations of Your Scientific Articles

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talking about science communication and motivations for scientists to
reach a broader audience.  By a broader audience, I’m talking about
scientists outside your field,  resource managers (who are often
biologists, but do not typically read the scientific literature),
students (K-12, undergraduate, graduate), the media, policy-makers, and
the general public.  In the last post, I explained how a proven record
of communicating science to a diverse audience is essential to meeting
funding agency requirements (e.g., the Broader Impacts criterion
required for proposals to the National Science Foundation).

In this post, I’d like to provide another incentive:  getting more citations and recognition.

google scholar citations
Most scientists are evaluated based on their publications and more
specifically on the numbers of citations their publications receive. 
One can argue that such indices are flawed and are not a good way to
judge someone but the fact is that search committees and promotion
review panels routinely examine the citation record and h-index of
candidates.  If you have published a number of papers but they’ve not
been cited (except by you and other co-authors), then the conclusion
will be that your work is not making an impact on the field.  On the
other hand, if your papers have been cited hundreds of times by
scientists working in diverse fields, then your work is clearly of
general importance to science.  Guess which outcome is going to put you
at the top of the list of candidates or ensure your promotion?

This type of information can be acquired by examining the citation record, typically in the Thompson Reuters Science Citation Index (available online through the Web of Science).  Another growing data source for citation analysis is Google Scholar
(in case you haven’t checked this out, GS citations does an excellent
job of accurately compiling your citations).  The h-index is a measure
of both number of publications and number of citations.  The h in the h-index means that a scientist has published h papers, each of which has been cited in other papers at least h
times.  By the way, if you don’t have a clue about how many times your
publications have been cited or what your h-index is, that’s like a
student who doesn’t know their GPA (grade point average).  Without such
information, you will not know how you stack up against your competition
or whether you need to step up your game.

Bottom line…citations are important.  If people are unaware of your
work, they won’t be citing it.  The more students and scientists in
other fields who have heard of your research, the more citations you
will get.  This is where science communication comes in.  A graduate
student, for example, may be writing their first paper or research
prospectus about a very specific topic but is looking for more general
information to set the background for the study.  They will do a typical
literature search but will likely also search on Google, especially if
they cannot find a scholarly paper that provides the type of basic
information they need to put their work into a broader context. Such
information was only available in books when I was a graduate student,
and I had to trek to the library and search the stacks for a good basic
description of a habitat or a species, which simply was not available in
single research articles (and even if it was, it was not written in
everyday language that I could comprehend).  Nowadays, this type of
basic information is everywhere on the internet, and students, in
particular, are likely to search for it on the Web.

Let’s take a look at an example of how a non-technical communication
product about a research effort can lead people to your technical
articles, which they then will be more likely to cite in their technical

First, I’ll use a text-based communication example.  Government
agencies routinely produce science communication products geared toward
general audiences.  The agency I worked for uses “fact sheets” to
summarize information about a science topic or a recent research
finding….written in everyday language.  I wrote several of these fact
sheets, which turned out to be much more popular than any of my
technical publications. One of these summarized my work on global change
impacts on mangroves (a type of coastal wetland).  If you conduct a
Google search on the terms global change and mangrove, my fact sheet pops up near the top of the list (see screenshot below).

Note that my fact sheet, unlike the scholarly articles listed above
it, is available for free.  All one has to do is click on the link, and
the viewer is taken to a webpage with the entire fact sheet, including a
link to download a pdf of the article (see photo below).

scholarly articles listed above it on the search page are all good
sources of information about mangroves and global change, but you need a
subscription to the journal (or pay $35 or more) to read it.  Which one
do you think students, in particular, will be likely to read first?  As
for citations, I provide several references to my own peer-reviewed
journal articles at the end of the fact sheet as well as a clickable
link to my email address so that whoever wishes to get copies of those
scholarly articles can easily contact me (see photo below).
Not only will such non-technical articles lead people to your
technical papers, but they will generally raise your scientific profile
on the internet.  In the next posts, I’ll show how videos and other
audiovisual items will make you visible when your text-based links will

3 thoughts on “How to Increase Citations of Your Scientific Articles

  1. Very interesting. Unfortunately, in
    the National Park Service, which produces a lot of technical bulletins
    by internal scientists, authorship is often not recognized. I think I
    will start my own website, write technical bulletins, and post them!

    • Thanks for the comment, Joy. But I
      wonder if you are allowed to publish (or post) technical works funded by
      NPS without NPS approval? I know that USGS would have required prior
      review and approval of any scientific information related to my area of
      expertise. This would not be true of work outside my field, such as this
      blog focused on videography, but definitely for anything technical to
      do with wetlands.

      If you are allowed to have a personal website, then you could list
      your publications or current projects and add “summaries” or “updates”
      about each one; I wouldn’t call them technical bulletins or anything
      that suggests NPS was the publisher.

  2. Pingback: Blogging Anniversary | The Scientist Videographer

How to Increase Citations of Your Scientific Articles | The Scientist Videographer

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