Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Biases in References

There is a lot of work on bibliographics. Is there a good study of the biases in references in research papers?
There are many, many ways to subtly over or under represent prior/earliest work. One might
  • not cite a prior work where it is needed, or
  • cite a later work while an earlier work is more appropriate, or
  • cite all relevant work but weight improperly by say placing a later work at the same level as the earliest work, by repeating references to a later work more, or slant natural language discussion towards the later work, and so on.
This may be done for
  • selfish reasons (self-citations),
  • social reasons (citations to students, friends, colleagues or ones we trust or know), or
  • antagonistic reasons (jealousy towards a perceived peer, animosity towards someone for a perceived past slight, competition with another group, and so on).
I see a lot of work on bias in the scientific opinion of an author, or bias in selection and so on, but very little on biases in references or systematic ways to analyze and quantify them.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another common reason I've seen: sloppiness. That is, a popular paper X written in the past miscites previous work, then people look to X to see what they should cite without actually checking those references themselves.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would be an interesting research subject.

Limited historical memory and "winner take all" effects should also be considered.

I'm learning about a subfield where one paper from the '70s gets cited constantly, even though it's largely a survey and is neither the first nor the last word on the matter. It seems like it gained a certain critical mass and is now heavily cited out of laziness more than anything.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fourth reason I have often seen is flattery: junior people buttering up more senior people in the field who they expect letters/jobs/etc from.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

+ Sloppiness/laziness/bib copying

+ Limited memory/searchability too.

+ Currying favor

Winner take all, certainly see that all the time.

-- Metoo

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Papers of PC members are cited as, in many cases, massaging their ego definitely helps in their opinion of your submission.

10:41 AM  
Blogger aram harrow said...

There are a lot of anonymous comments here! :)

I wonder how many of these principles explain the 100+ citation's to Tai's rule.

8:41 PM  

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