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Monday, March 17, 2014

"The Gender Citation Gap" and Self-Citation

The Chronicle of Higher Education has this interesting article on citation patterns in academic publications. The central item of discussion is that men are cited more frequently than women. The article begins:

When Barbara F. Walter went to Princeton University last spring to tell political-science professors about her study revealing a new gender gap in academic publishing, she was surprised to see the reasons for the divide play out right in front of her. 
Her study documented that in scholarship on international relations, work by men is cited more often than work by women. Among the reasons: Female authors are only half as likely as male authors are to cite their own research. 
"The women in the room spoke first, saying there was something dirty and underhanded about citing your own work, that it seemed somehow wrong," recounts Ms. Walter, a professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego. "But then a male graduate student said he was shocked because it had never occurred to him that self-citation was a negative. The other men were all saying it was perfectly normal and asking, Why wouldn’t you want to promote your own work?"
Walter's study is available here. Citation rates are a crucial measure of success for academic writers, and the Chronicle article goes into great depth about different attitudes towards self-citation. One common theme was the tendency to self-cite when a book or article forms the basis of a new field of study. Scholars generally justify self-citation by pointing out that their work is a novel accomplishment that forms the foundation for new study. But this domain of material tends to be disproportionately white and male:

Terrell L. Strayhorn, an associate professor of higher education at Ohio State University, says that for women and scholars from ethnic minority groups, self-citation should be part of a strategy to get more attention for their work. As an editor of Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men and associate editor of The Journal of Higher Education, Mr. Strayhorn says he often reads manuscripts by minority women who fail to cite any of their own work. "I’ll get reviews back on the paper, and sometimes reviewers say, ‘You really need to cite this person’s work,’ and they are talking about the scholar who wrote the piece herself." 
Mr. Strayhorn says it will take self-citation for the work of women and minority scholars to gain acclaim. "We’re living in a time where a lot of papers in social sciences get published by citing the canon," he says. "But right now the canon is still predominantly white and male. One way to break that down is to make sure we’re citing more-recent scholars, and that means citing ourselves."
The Chronicle and the studies it discusses seem to focus primarily on peer-reviewed work, meaning that most law journals are left out of this analysis. I would not be particularly surprised to see similar trends in the world of legal scholarship. But footnotes and citations are so numerous in legal scholarship that I would be equally unsurprised to see less of a gap in self-citation, since the citation to one's own work would be only one of hundreds of other citations.

Finally, I would like to note that while I gratuitously cite my own posts in this blog, I have not yet cited anything I have written in the papers I have submitted for publication. Admittedly, my papers so far concern fairly distinct subject matters, but I probably could have cited this paper in this paper.

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