Thursday, May 19, 2011

Citation Surge

At some point, in one of my old blog-posts, I asked how often authors check their citation data: every week? every month? every once in a while when the mood strikes? never? I was in the 'every once in a while' category.. until recently.

In a flash of self-realization, I determined that the reason I didn't obsessively check my citations was not because I am above doing such things, have better things to do, and/or know that it is unhealthy to fixate on citations. No, it turns out that I was not obsessively checking my citation numbers because doing so would be even less exciting than watching grass grow. From week to week, there might be a few citations clicking up a notch or two, but this wasn't thrilling enough to inspire me to check back frequently.

But now, there is one particular paper that is surging in citations! It is very exciting! And so I check my citation numbers much more often than I used to.

It would be even more exciting if the paper in question represented a major brilliant cosmic advance in Science, but, alas, it's a utilitarian piece of work. It's just something that is useful. Apparently (and lucky for me), it seems to be very useful, and I have been enjoying watching the citations go up every week.

This is sad, I know. First, there was the fleeting thrill when the citations of this paper upped my h-index, and now there is the lame entertainment of seeing that the number of citations has changed by a number >> 1 compared to the last time I checked.

Will the thrill fade with time? Or am I now addicted to checking my numbers every week (or so)? Is there any cure for this particular obsession? Should I seek help?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

On ISI web of knowledge, you can set up a citation alert to email you when a particular paper is cited. So I get an email every time one of my papers is cited - a great ego boost but also a bit obsessive?

David Stern said...

No, I think it is always inspiring to see that people find ones work useful.

aprofessor said...

Congrats on the well-cited paper! Enjoy it. So long as your paper isn't cited for being wrong, and it is truly useful to the field, then you've done well and done a service to the field. You can indulge in a little citation-watching. It is important to see how your work is being used, and it might give you more ideas in the future.

Anonymous said...

What field are you in FSP? We math people find it incredible when we hear folks talk about citation counts increasing on a monthly or even weekly basis. I think my old advsior has received about 15 citations in his entire life (and that includes a couple of self citations). And this is about average, unless you are a truly famous mathematician.

In fact, yesterday I was downloading one of the most influential, truly legendary papers in mathematics, written some 65 years ago. It is so famous that it is known by a standard abbreviation. Citation count: 73!

studyzone said...

When my major first-author paper came out following grad school, I started checking citations religiously (just because I am a narcissist). Within 6 months, I had 10 citations! I thought this was great, until I realized that 8 of those were citing a very specific protocol I described in the methods (and 3 of those 8 citations came from my present lab). In the 3 years since that paper came out, I now have as many citations referencing my results as I have for that one protocol, so I guess I'm pleased?

nicoleandmaggie said...

I just checked for the first time because someone recommended that as a way to put people on the list for letter writers for tenure. I was able to add someone who cites me multiple times.

Female Science Professor said...

Great! That's an excellent use of citation indices. I highly recommend it, especially if it the citing person is someone you don't know well. It's good to check that they are citing you because they (seem to) like your work, though.

a physicist said...

I check mine every week, when they're updated on Fridays. I think you'll keep checking for the same reason I keep checking: I love data, and this is interesting data to me. I get enough citations each week that it feels interesting. Why do I think you love data, too? I can't find the specific post, but you graphed the moods of your graduate student as their PhD defense approached, that's a pretty data-lovin' thing to do.

Oh, and moderately often when I check my citations, I find an interesting paper that cited one of mine, and end up reading it. I know that should be the better reason to check my citations, but really it's mostly about fun data.

Female Science Professor said...

Yes.. I did once graph a moody student, pre-defense. I also wrote about being a data fiend here: http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2008/07/data-fiend.htm

I think you are right. I also like seeing all the citation data at once in a table, and therefore find citation alerts less satisfying (although I get these as well).

Anonymous said...

I've never thought of citation checking as an ego thing. I check because I want to see what others think of my work and whether they disagree with it. I have a citation alert set up for every paper I've published.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

Citation counts can be misleading. A standard protocol paper with not much original work can get cited 100s or 1000s of times, while ground-breaking work may go uncited as follow-on works by a well-connected research group go uncited.

Culture of a field makes a huge difference, as there are 1000s of biologists citing many marginally relevant papers at a high rate for each mathematician citing one or two directly relevant papers.

My most influential work is not my most cited in academic literature (but has over 57000 mentions according to Google).

Pagan Topologist said...

I confess that I have never even learned how to check mine. The closest I ever came to such a thing was that I used to take some pleasure in the fact that in many issues of Mathematical Reviews. in my section, there were several reviews of others' papers that mentioned my name.

Amy said...

I must admit, I only check my citations when you mention it on your blog! (Or when I am preparing retention/promotion materials.) But I checked today and found both a couple of interesting citations to read and also a citation that completely mis-cited my work. I feel a slight compulsion to correct the mis-citations, but they are not harmful and so I don't really care much.

Materialist said...

Seems there's a lesson here: if you want citations write a paper with a good protocol.
Ideas are cheap - a method that has been demonstrated to work is very valuable.
Even if my papers never get cited in the open literature, my greatest hope is that they speed along the research of others.

Keith said...

You can also setup Google Scholar to send you email when you're cited, but you have to set it up for each paper individually. You find your paper in a listing, click Cited By, and setup an alert for when that listing changes. I haven't tried the ISI Web of Knowledge though, maybe that's the same or better.

GMP said...

Tangentially relevant: one's impact beyond the impact factor, as per PhD comics

Impact Factor

Anonymous said...

Today is the first time I've looked up my citation numbers, and it was only because I'm working on my P&T dossier.

The results:
3 papers, 0 citations*;

My reaction:
#yawn#

*please note, I'm in a field where it may take 6-12+ months for a manuscript to go from submission to publication. Two of the papers were published in the last 16 months, and as of the last scientific meeting no one else was actively pursuing research on this particular subject.

PostDoc said...

Question: ISI has my best cited paper at 37 times, and Google Scholar has it at 69 times. In those terrible documents one must generate explaining the importance of your work, may I quote the 69 instead of the 37? Or does it have to be in ISI to count?

John V said...

Watching citation counts rise is curiously gratifying.

Maybe it's just me, as I get a similar thrill from getting helpful votes on Amazon, good votes on Yelp, hits on my web page, or even thumbs up or down on comments on local news stories.

I've recently been concerned because I get more Google hits for my headphone and coffee machine reviews on Amazon than for my work - what do prospective grad students think? Luckily, the Amazon reviews only appear when including my middle initial.

GMP said...

@ PostDoc: ISI doesn't pick up citations in people's theses or new journals and conferences not yet indexed by them.

I personally always list both numbers.

Citations: ISI Web of Science -- X, Google Scholar -- Y

That's what I was advised to do for my tenure and promotion document, and I keep doing it.

But yes, as John V said, watching citation count go up week by week is curiously gratifying. And I have also found several interesting papers this way (they cited some of mine).

EliRabett said...

Anne Wil-Harzing's Publish or Perish, available on line, free and useful. Based on Google Scholar

Anonymous said...

"It's just something that is useful" - it makes me a bit sad that you dismiss your contribution this way.

Anyway, I rarely check my own citations, because research has become a minor part of my job any more. But I am quite obsessive about checking up on my best friend's. On occasion I even try to work out how long it will take for her h-index to notch up another level. My prediction is that she'll hit 22 before summer's over. :-)

Keng said...

@PostDoc

Is your paper an IOP journal? I found EndNote doesn't do the article number right if you download the citation from the ISI. So when the paper cites you by using the endnote without checking, ISI won't recognize the paper with not article number. Sometimes I will write to ISI to correct for the missing citation for newer paper. For paper which is already high citation, I don't bother to do so (too many to catch). I told ISI about this problem but they did not reply about this.