The Sad World of Uncited Papers


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A Nature Information function examines tutorial papers which have by no means been cited.

In line with writer Richard Van Noorden, by some estimates as much as half of all papers have but to obtain their first quotation 5 years after publication, and even 10% of Nobel Prizewinners’ papers go uncited.

Nonetheless, Van Noorden experiences that these estimates are far too excessive. For latest papers listed on Net of Science (WoS), “data recommend that fewer than 10%” stay uncited, and even that is probably an overestimate, as a result of it doesn’t monitor citations from journals outdoors WoS, to not point out books, patents, and many others. As for Nobelist’s papers, it appears that evidently simply zero.three% are uncited.

The proportion of uncited papers does appear to have been increased prior to now, nonetheless, with 20% of WoS papers revealed in 1980 remaining with no single quotation as we speak. So uncited papers do exist, however they’re unusual, and getting rarer – in all probability as a result of the variety of references cited in every paper is rising, so there are extra citations to go round.

Van Noorden notes that we shouldn’t assume that an uncited paper is nugatory – they might nonetheless affect researchers and practitioners.

The article comprises a very attention-grabbing instance of uncited influence: a paper which wasn’t cited as a result of it “closed off an unproductive avenue of analysis”

In 2003, Niklaas Buurma and colleagues revealed a paper about ‘the isochoric controversy’ – an argument about whether or not it could be helpful to cease a solvent from contracting or increasing throughout a response, as often happens when temperatures change.

In principle, this technically difficult experiment may provide perception into how solvents affect chemical response charges. However Buurma’s checks confirmed that chemists don’t be taught new data from any such experiment. “We got down to present that one thing was not value doing — and we confirmed it,” he says. “I’m fairly pleased with this as a totally uncitable paper,” he provides.

For my part, “false path closing” is a key a part of the scientific enterprise, and papers like Buurma et al.’s are essential. Such papers don’t at all times get zero citations – they might even be extremely cited – however I believe that they not often get the sort of citations that greets the introduction of a brand new technique (even when that technique seems to be flawed later.)

As soon as a technique is proven to be flawed, few individuals will speak about it – even to acknowledge whoever confirmed that it doesn’t work.

A scientist who units out to criticize a sure approach will typically be instructed ‘effectively, you give you a greater strategy’ – and by way of getting citations, that is definitely higher than writing a purely detrimental paper. However generally there is no higher technique out there (a minimum of not with present expertise.)

A scientist with doubts in regards to the strategies used of their subject will, due to this fact, face a dilemma: proceed utilizing the flawed strategies out there, and publishing citable if questionable outcomes; or criticize the strategy, and threat chopping off the department they stand on.

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