Thursday, 13 October 2005

The Fine Art of Self-Citation; or, "Impact Factors" and the Mathematical Proof of One's Importance This article on "impact factors" compels me to pull this cheap stunt. If the most prestigious journals in the hard sciences—those pure-minded publications whose interests do not include the coddling of insecure scholars and the inflation of their own importance as is the case in the soft sciences and humanities—are encouraged to practice the fine art of self-citation in order to drive up their "impact factor," what prevents a humble blogger like me from doing the same? In other words, this isn't considered unethical in the scientific community: But the policy has done just that, and quite successfully, according to the The Chronicle's analysis of self-citations to one-year-old articles — which are important in the impact calculation. In 1997 the Journal of Applied Ecology cited its own one-year-old articles 30 times. By 2004 that number had grown to 91 citations, a 200-percent increase. Therefore, it shouldn't be unethical for a blogger to puff his (now ostentatiously) humble chest. Surely nothing I say ranks in importance anywhere near anything published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the Annual Review of Immunology or the Cancer Journal for Clinicians. And yet all of those publications feel the need to inflate their patent importance by citing recently published articles again and again and again and again. With importance being predicated on the appearance of importance, why worry about the ethical dilemma of choking off the availability of vital—literally "vital," as in the Latin vita, meaning "life"—research in a library which subscribes to journals based on their "impact factor." An important journal of cardiology, one keyed to specialists, may not be available in a research library because its impact factor ranks far below that of the specialist journals. [Update: Stephen Karlson pushes this logic a little further here.] From whence does my righteous indignation against the high impact factor generalist journal spring? I'm not sure. But my life would be easier if UCI subscribed to the Jack London Journal.
Welcome Readers of Kos, Hunter Division You are legion and have busted my Site Meter .... but I invite you to look around. But be careful. The china's expensive and the cats bolt for the door. That said, the house recommends the posts to your immediate right labelled "Would That They Were Representative." If you prefer a drubbing of a different sort, let me suggest Michael Berube's entry on Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen and his nearly depleted wrong reserves. UPDATE: Alright, I know that you and I agree that "conservatives" (however "we" define the term, i.e. despite our differences) are the Devil, but I'm more than a little disappointed that 3,719 people have reconnoitred these environs and not a single person has taken issue with anything I wrote. Stop the self-congratulatory applause. No one here will pat you on the back. Surely you know that while the statement the committee made with the Pinter decision is a strong one. But if they've at all been influenced by his recent poetry then they've compromised their standards and have degraded the legacies of previous award winners. Again, not to say that I disagree Pinter's position on the war in Iraq, but given the quality of his work since he's "retired," sound reasons for criticism abound. As Scott McLemee (someone you all should read) said: This award makes sense only as a foreign-policy editorial disguised as a literary prize. McLemee's as snugly left as you or I, but he has the balls to be honest about the decision. I only say this because, while I appreicate the link and the overwhelming amount of traffic accompanying it, there's an annoying sense of rallying 'round the banner to the criticism of conservative criticism of Pinter's selection. He wrote brilliantly about contemporary issues thirty years ago. But since he's "quit" the literary business for the pundit racket he's been hit-or-miss: "hit" on the Iraq debacle, yes, but "miss Miss MISS!" on Milošević. And the quality of his work of late, as I indicated when I mocked both LGF commenter "Carolyn" and Pinter for the substance of and response to "American Football." In other words, those on the Left (Old, New, Radical, Über-Radical, or what-not) need to not wear the blinders of their brethren on the Right; they need to differentiate between legitimate criticism of artist's work and the stupidity of those who would pride themselves on reading naught but Dan Brown. The Left is as impotent as ever, and no amount of self-congratulation will change that.

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