Missed citations

Have you seen a paper failing to cite a very relevant source? The chances are you have and that you felt — more than once — that your work was not referenced when it should have been.

Authors may choose not to cite a reference for many reasons, some legitimate, e.g., they find the evidence unconvincing, and other less so, e.g., they believe that a reference will undermine the novelty of their work. If the latter sounds incredible to you, here is a quote:


I am sorry for not referencing your paper, but it would have undermined the novelty of our work. You know how Nature editors think.


Missed citations are hot potatoes. If you complain that your papers are not cited, when you believe they should have, most of yours colleagues are unlikely to take you seriously. Indeed, authors are likely to be biased toward their work and seek more references in these citation-obsessed times. Why care about missed citations?


I think most scientist will agree that we should give credit where credit is due. So, how can we fight the “impact factor scoop”? Here is an idea:

We can start a PubPeer style database in which everybody who has been a corresponding author for a PubMed paper can list missed citations to papers for which they are not authors. The latter is essential to avoid the biases of authors who believe that global conspiracy against them is the only reason why everybody is not citing them. Furthermore, the database should collect missed citations in a machine-readable form so that they can be analyzed more easily.

What do you think about the above idea? Do you have suggestions for other approaches that can improve citation practices?


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