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Do we need to keep an eye on self-citation?

Self-citation index

Is self-citation getting out of control and do we need to keep a closer eye on it? A recent article suggests that it might be time for the creation of a self-citation index.

With an ever-growing emphasis on publications metrics, the article’s authors, Flatt et al, suggest that the field of medical publications could be inadvertently rewarding superfluous self-citations. While self-citation can be scientifically valid, Flatt et al suggest that authors keen to ensure a high h-index value, intended as an objective measure of scientific impact, might resort to excessive levels of self-citation to skew the system.

The authors hope that a self-citation index, detailing the proportion of self-citations in an individual author’s output, would shine a light on the issue and provoke further debate and discussion within the research community. They also suggest that the transparency provided by such a metric might in itself bring about a change in behaviour. As discussed in a recent blog post on Scholarly Kitchen, this approach is not without its own challenges, not least of which is differentiating prolific authors from those ‘playing the system’. Flatt et al believe though that the risk of creating publication and research bias through excessive self-citation means that the issue cannot be “left unchecked”.

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Summary by Hannah Mace, MPharmacol from Aspire Scientific

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Ryan co-runs Aspire Scientific, a dynamic, forward-thinking medical writing agency. Ryan has a passion for innovation, science and ethical communication.

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