This week I am reviewing a manuscript about a topic that is near-and-dear to me. The authors cite some of my recent papers on this topic, but not the 'original' paper that seems most obvious to cite in the context of the manuscript under review. There is even one sentence that is essentially identical to one in the uncited paper. The authors use a synonym for one key word, but the sentence is otherwise the same.
This is not a lament or complaint about inadequate referencing or plagiarism or my bruised ego or the infinitesimal loss to my citation index.
The lack of citation, however, makes me wonder at which point an idea or body of work becomes so accepted that referencing it seems absurd or pointless.
For example, in the case of the sentence that the manuscript's authors (barely) modified from one in my old paper, one could argue that the sentence in the earlier paper states something that is now obvious -- that is, it states something that has become so widely accepted that a reference is no longer needed. Perhaps the manuscript authors are young and so an idea published in ancient times (i.e., 5 years ago) is old news? I don't know, but since I clearly remember a time when this 'old' paper represented a change in the way people thought about this topic (and since I am not objective in this particular case), perhaps I am not quite ready to think of the work as conventional wisdom yet.
I bet if I looked at my own papers in terms of what statements I think require a citation and which don't, there might well be a dividing line corresponding to the time at which I started writing papers (graduate school). Surely everything before then had long been known, but anything since then is a 'new' idea?
In my review, I am not going to advise the authors to cite my paper. They have clearly read it and been positively influenced by it, and I will content myself with the warm and fuzzy feeling that gives me and with the knowledge that it is better to have one's work become 'conventional wisdom' (however briefly) than to be ignored and dismissed.
5 weeks ago