Citation manipulation refers to the following types of behaviour:
• Excessive citation of an author’s research by the author (ie, self-citation by authors) as a means solely of increasing the number of citations of the author’s work;
• Excessive citation of articles from the journal in which the author is publishing a research article as a means solely of increasing the number of citations of the journal; or
• Excessive citation of the work of another author or journal, sometimes referred to as ‘honorary’ citations (eg, the editor-in-chief of the journal to which one is submitting a manuscript or a well-known scholar in the field of the researcher) or ‘citation stacking’ solely to contribute to the citations of the author(s)/ journal(s) in question.
Citation manipulation is not a new phenomenon. As early as 1955, when Garfield originally wrote about a Journal Citation Index that he subsequently developed in 1963, he warned about its potential abuse. The purpose of citation indexes is intended to be a measure of scientific innovation and quality. However, citation manipulation can occur in ways identified above which distort its original purpose.
When articles are found to contain references that do not contribute to the scholarly content of the article and have been included solely as a mechanism of increasing citations, the result misrepresents the importance of the specific work and the journal in which it appears. The ability of citations to be manipulated has resulted in a more cautious approach to accepting the legitimacy of citation indexes as the most important indicator of the impact of scholarly publications. Citations are still, however, deemed to be an important and legitimate indicator of productivity by authors, editors, publishers, and institutions more generally and particularly within some disciplines, such as, the sciences. Further, researchers who publish in high impact factor journals (ie, with high citation rates) are rewarded in their careers through promotion and through success with granting agencies.
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About this resource
Written by COPE Council
Version 1 July 2019
How to cite this
COPE Council. COPE Discussion Document: Citation Manipulation. July 2019. https://doi.org/10.24318/cope.2019.3.1
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