Why Nobody Cites Your Articles

Most academics will know that papers are produced and not read. The whole academic publishing system is geared to the production, and not the consumption, of text. The off-the-cuff sad joke used to be that only 8 people would ever read your work (and that included the reviewers and your mother). But it’s actually sadder than that. Lokman I Meho begins The Rise and Rise of Citation Analysis with the chilling words:

It is a sobering fact that some 90% of papers that have been published in academic journals are never cited. Indeed, as many as 50% of papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors.

Hours of intense labor and scientific rigor to produce a text that nobody reads. It’s disheartening. This sad labor is not limited to academic work, there are unfortunately many fields were the output is of little or no consequence and has no impact on its surroundings. But this is a sad comfort for academia.

Academic work is naturally limited and focused. If you want thousands of readers you are in the wrong job. Be happy that you are read and cited. If most articles are never read or cited then the fact that you are cited should be valued much more than it is. Also what about the cases where something is said in passing on social media? Shouldn’t that count for something? Probably not. How would a tenure committee value a tweet?

The real issue is that most articles that are produced are happily dumped into closed information silos. Academics are all too happy to sign away the rights to their articles to the publishers who promptly lock them away – in order to profit by steadily increasing the prices (serials crisis) they charge libraries to subscribe to the journals the academics need in order to publish more articles. The motivation for academics to participate in this system is that our careers are built on publishing in the “right” journals.

tshirtIn order to change this system the ways in which academic careers are determined need to be re-appraised. The production of knowledge and publication are important for science but this cannot mean that this production must be in the “right” journal. The appraisal of the scientific contribution cannot be tied to the brand name of a specific journal but must be about the article content.

In the meantime we must be more wary about handing away our rights, more careful to ensure that we can use and re-use our own texts. This requires strong academics and strong universities in order to stand up to the strong publishers. We must not let things like this happen:

Academic publisher Elsevier has been targeting open access websites and universities that are posting their own academic articles online with takedown notices for copyright infringement. (Wired Magazine, December 17, 2013)

Finally, by maintaining the rights to our own articles and by ensuring they are available to readers outside the academic sphere the knowledge in the articles can be spread beyond the narrow confines of the closed information silos. The knowledge in the articles might be read by more people and maybe, maybe, maybe be cited.

Fresh First Monday out now!

The latest issue of First Monday is online. As always this journal manages to provide articles of interest every month. No exception this time. I am looking forward to reading The relationship between public libraries and Google: Too much information by Vivienne Waller, What value do users derive from social networking applications? by Larry Neale and Rebekah Russell-Bennett & From PDF to MP3: Motivations for creating derivative works by John Hilton.

Strangely enough even though First Monday has been around since 1996 – it was one of the first openly accessible, peer–reviewed journals on the Internet – and it has a focus on the Internet some students have managed to miss it and its impact.

Resistance Studies Magazine nr 3

Hmm, as a member of the editorial board I feel that I should have been better at spreading the word about this. Even though the magazine has been well recieved.

The third issue of the Resistance Studies Magazine is out now. You may read it immediately following this link. It has been a great pleasure to edit the five articles, and they are really worth reading. Here is a short summary of the articles from the editorial column:

  • Drawing on a theoretical combination of James Scott’s conception of everyday resistance and Erwin Goffman’s symbolic interactionism, Carol Jo Evans develops an interesting case study of resistance within a North American Appalachian community.
  • Shane Gunderson discusses how resistance movements may gain momentum, as “popular intellectuals” facilitate and combine ideological work with political initiative. Gunderson shows, through a case-study, that structuring resistance in a more strategic fashion, through sequential actions, will increase the possibility of social change.
  • Femke Kaulingfreks writes about the May 2008 riots in Copenhagen, and how such events, when taken seriously, seem to grow politics from the middle, thus shaping grounds for important political agency. What falls outside of normalisation, is not necessary disruptive in a counter-productive way, but may reveal inequalities and open up debates.
  • Thomas Riegler analyses the ?lm The Battle of Algiers and how it has been caught up in debates on whether it has in?uenced resistance like an instruction manual in asymmetric warfare and guerrilla tactics, or not.
  • Finally, Adrian Bua deals with the problems of pluralism and democracy, and proposes how class analysis can contribute to a more sustainable alternative called pluralist socialism.

Please download and read the articles, and watch out for a CFP for the 2008#4 Special Issue.