Saturday, September 24, 2011

War of References

My post on Biases in References generated email and real conversations and one phenomenon that got abstracted:
  • Authors submit their paper q to a conf citing a paper p very prominently giving credit for prior work;
  • q gets accepted, authors submit a camera ready version with lukewarm reference to p making it sound contemporaneous;
  • After a few months/years, q is submitted, accepted and appears in the journal version, references to p now missing or p made to appear irrelevant.
The scenario above may be an extreme, but there seems to the case of citations that morph in tone, substance or even existence from submission to camera-ready to journal appearance of a paper.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Others, mostly laziness:

-citing a paper on the web or ArXiv as "unpublished manuscript", with no pointer;

-burying citations to papers that are very closely related among citations to many others that are not;

-citing only papers that are the "last word", maybe even where the only improvement on prior work is slightly better exposition.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Michael Mitzenmacher said...

I missed the reference post originally, but I think you're missing one big reason for reference changes (at least for me): page limits.

I have my wonderful 10 page paper, and then for, say, ESA, I'm forced to put it in 12 LNCS pages, which corresponds to maybe 6 or 7 normal pages. So 3+ pages have to go. I can remove some math, but I can't remove the statements of my theorems! So discussion of prior work gets cut -- I save space both in the text, and by cutting out references in the bibliography.

If you want my actual discussion of prior work, you have to look to the arXiv.

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI Michael,

You are right, there are legitimate reasons to optimize references, and saving space for a bounded camera-ready is legitimate in my books. In such cases, the full picture will be restored in the arXiv or journal version.

-- Metoo

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who has ever been pressured to reference some particular work in some particular way, either before submission (if the person doing the pressuring is on the PC or likely to be a sub-reviewer) or afterwards (by a shepherd, or a journal reviewer, or out of band)? I might grumble and go along with it when I have to, but the first chance I get I will change the citation back to something I am happy with.

3:05 PM  

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