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Thursday, 15 May 2014

"Citation Frequency and Ethical Issue" by Nader Ale Ebrahim

Citation Frequency and Ethical Issue

Nader Ale Ebrahim, Research
Support Unit, Centre of Research Services, Institute of Research
Management and Monitoring (IPPP), University of Malaya, Jalan Lembah
Pantai, Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, 50603, Malaysia


Dear Editor: I read your publication ethics issue on “bogus impact
factors” with great interest (1). I would like to initiate a new trend
in manipulating the citation counts. There are several ethical
approaches to increase the number of citations for a published paper
(2). However, it is apparent that some manipulation of the number of
citations is occurring (3, 4). Self - citations, “those in which the
authors cite their own works” account for a significant portion of all
citations (5). With the advent of information technology, it is easy to
identify unusual trends for citations in a paper or a journal. A web
application to calculate the single publication h - index based on (6)
is available online (7, 8). A tool developed by Francisco Couto (9) can
measure authors’ citation impact by excluding the self - citations. Self
- citation is ethical when it is a necessity. Nevertheless, there is a
threshold for self - citations. Thomson Reuters’ resource, known as the
Web of Science (WoS) and currently lists journal impact factors,
considers self - citation to be acceptable up to a rate of 20%; anything
over that is considered suspect (10). In some journals, even 5% is
considered to be a high rate of self - citations. The ‘Journal Citation
Report’ is a reliable source for checking the acceptable level of self -
citation in any field of study. The Public Policy Group of the London
School of Economics (LSE) published a handbook for “Maximizing the
Impacts of Your Research” and described self - citation rates across
different groups of disciplines, indicating that they vary up to 40%
(11). Unfortunately, there is no significant penalty for the most
frequent self - citers, and the effect of self - citation remains
positive even for very high rates of self - citation (5). However, WoS
has dropped some journals from its database because of untrue trends in
the citations (4). The same policy also should be applied for the most
frequent self - citers. The ethics of publications should be adhered to
by those who wish to conduct research and publish their findings.

Suggested Citation

Nader Ale Ebrahim. "Citation Frequency and Ethical Issue" Electronic Physician 6.2 (2014): 814-815.
Available at:

"Citation Frequency and Ethical Issue" by Nader Ale Ebrahim

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