Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Impact of Print Media and Wikipedia on Citation Rates of Academic Articles ~ libfocus - Irish library blog


The Impact of Print Media and Wikipedia on Citation Rates of Academic Articles

Guest post by Daniel Price. Daniel lives
in Israel, has an MA in Library and Information Science from Bar Ilan
University, and works as a librarian at Shalem College in Jerusalem.

There is a clear desirability to publish a paper that has a strong
scholarly impact, both for personal satisfaction knowing that one’s
research has been viewed and built upon, and for professional reasons,
since the number of citations a paper can correlate to promotion and
tenure - the ubiquitous “publish or perish” (Miller, Taylor and Bedeian,
2011), which has now become an international phenomena (De Meis,
Leopoldo, et al, 2003; De Rond and Miller, 2005; Min, Abdullah and
Mohamed, 2013; Osuna, Cruz-Castro and Sanz-Menéndez, 2010; Qiu, 2010;
Rotich and Muskali, 2013), increased salary and external funding
(Browman and Stergiou, 2008; Diamond, 1986; Gomez-Mejia and Balkin,
1992; Monastersky, 2005; Schoonbaert and Roelants, 1996) and even the
chance of winning professional prizes such as a Nobel Prize (Pendlebury,

Understandably then many studies have been carried out to discover the
characteristics of highly cited papers (Aksnes, 2003) and the factors
that influence citation counts. It is widely accepted that it is not
just the quality of the science that affect the citation rate, but
bibliometric parameters of papers such as its length (Abt, 1998; Ball,
2008; Falagas et. al. 2013; Hamrick, Fricker and Brown, 2010), number of
references (Corbyn, 2010; Kostoff, 2007; Vieira and Gomes, 2010;
Webster et. al., 2009), number of authors (Aksnes, 2003; Borsuk et. al.,
2009; Gazni and Didegah, 2011; Wuchty et al., 2007), length of titles
(Habibzadeh and Yadollahie, 2010; Jacques and Sebire, 2010), colons in
titles (Jamali and Nikzad, 2011; van Wesel, Wyatt & ten Haa, 2014;
Rostami, Mohammadpoorasl, and Hajizadeh, 2014).

A variety of external considerations is also known to influence the
citation rate of academic papers. Intuitively a paper that has been
publicised in the popular print media will be cited more as its
publicity makes researchers more aware of it; however it can be argued
that quality newspapers only cite valuable articles that would garner a
significant number of citations in any case. That the first assumption
was true was proven thirteen years ago in 1991 by comparing how many
more citations articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine
received if they were quoted in the New York Times during a 12 week
period in 1978 when copies of the paper were printed but not distributed
due to a strike compared to the following year of 1979. The results
showed that articles covered by the Times received 72.8% more citations
during the first year after their publication but only those discussed
when the paper was actually distributed. Articles covered by the Times
during the strike period received no more citations that articles not
referenced by the Times, thus proving that exposure in the Times is a
cause of citation (“the publicity hypothesis”) and not a forecast of
future trends (the “earmark hypothesis”) (Phillips, 1991).

Phillips’ findings articles that covered in the New York Times receive
more citations was confirmed in another study conducted 11 years later
which also found however that exposure in less “elite” daily newspapers
(but not in evening broadcasts of mainstream USA television networks)
during a twelve month period from mid-1997 to mid-1998 also correlated
with higher citation rates of a wider range of scientific papers, thus
showing that scientific communication is not just carried out through
elite channels. Importantly though, the author notes that his study does
not prove the “publicity hypothesis” as the articles that were
publicised could have been more intrinsically important and were only
cited for this reason, although it does cast doubt on the “earmark
hypothesis” since many articles that were not mentioned were cited
(Kiernan, 2003).

In the present day much scholarly communication takes place on Web 2.0
tools and in the emerging field of “altmetrics” (Konkiel, 2013; Priem,
2014; Thelwall, 2013), studies focus on parametrics including whether it
has been cited and discussed on academic blogs (Shema, Bar-Ilan and
Thelwall 2014), tweeted (Eysenbach, 2011), and uploaded to a social
media platform such as Mendley (Li and Thelwall, 2012).

Research has also investigated whether articles cited on the decidedly
non-elitist Wikipedia. A study conducted in the beginning of 2010 found
that 0.54% of approximately nineteen million Wikipedia pages cited a
PubMed journal article, which corresponds to about 0.08% of all Pubmed
articles. The researchers showed that journal articles that were cited
in Wikipedia were cited more and had higher F1000 scores than a random
subset of non-cited articles, a phenomenon they explained according to
their hypothesised that Wikipedia users would only cite important
articles that present novel and ground-breaking research (Evans and
Krauthammer, 2011).

A larger study carried out two and half years later came to the same
conclusion that academic papers in the field of computer science which
are cited on Wikipedia would be more likely to be cited because the
Wikipedia entries are written by talented authors who are careful to
cite reputable authors and trending research topics (Shuai, Jiang, Liu
and Bollen, 2013).

These conclusions support the “earmark hypothesis” that Phillips
rejected and Kiernan doubted. Wikipedians are credited with identifying
high impact journal articles soon after they are published and
recommending them to other users.

In order to preserve a careful dialectic of both sides of the
publicity/earmark hypotheses though, the possibility should be
entertained that the large number of Wikipedia users may include
researchers who, flooded with an information overload of thousands of
articles, are motivated to read and quote certain articles because they
saw them quoted on Wikipedia. Future research could investigate the
information behavior of a large number of researchers, specifically
their use of Wikipedia.


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The Impact of Print Media and Wikipedia on Citation Rates of Academic Articles ~ libfocus - Irish library blog

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