, Volume 9, Issue 1–2, pp 71–89 | Cite as

The “meaning” of citation in the context of a scientifically peripheral country

  • Léa Velho


This paper reports an investigation into the referencing pattern of Brazilian agricultural scientists. The study was based on the use of both quantitative data-citations appearing in a sizeable sample of articles published by these scientists—and qualitative data-interviews with a large number of scientists who authored the source, papers. The aim was to explore the extent to which citation counts may be taken as valid indicators of the quality, influence or impact of published scientific knowledge in the general context of a scientifically peripheral country. The findings presented confirm the view that in this context, citation patterns are significantly influenced by factors “external” to the scientific realm and, thus, reflect neither simply the quality, influence nor even the impact of the research work referred to.


Research Work Scientific Knowledge General Context Agricultural Scientist Citation Count 
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Notes and references

  1. 1.
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    The Abstracts mentioned by the interviewees as the most heavily used were:Current Contents; Agriculture, Biology & Environmental Sciences, which indexes only 5 Brazilian periodicals of which only 1—Pesquisa Agropecuaria Brasileira, published by EMBRAPA-publishes articles related to the subfields of this study;Horticultural Abstracts, Field Crop Abstracts/Herbage Abstracts, Plant Breeding Abstracts, Soils and Fertilizers andWeed Abstracts. The last 4 are published by the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureax, UK, which indexes 135 Brazilian serial titles in agriculture. However, the most important Brazilian journal in soil science,Revista Brasileira de Ciencia do Solo, is not used as source by this organisation; neither isCiencia Agronomica, the agricultural scientific journal edited by UFC.Google Scholar
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    Current Contents: Agriculture, Biology & Environmental Sciences covers more than 1200 publications each year; 0.4% of them emanate from Brazil. In the same vein, out of the over 10000 serial titles covered by the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureax's publications, only about 1% emanate from Brazil.Google Scholar
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    C. DE MOURA CASTRO, F. SPAGNOLO, op. cit. note 22, Science and Scientists in Agriculture: the Brazilian Case, paper presented at the Tercier Seminario Internacional de Investigacion Educativa, Mexico, February, 1982. p. 8.Google Scholar
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    J. A. LARGE,op. cit. note 33, pp. 35–6.Google Scholar
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    Similarly, M. J. MORAVCSIK, P. MURUGESAN, Some results on the function and quality of citations,Social Studies of Science, 5 (1975) 86, set about to quantify the “error” in the use of citation counts as a measure of quality. Of the references occuring in a random sample of articles fromPhysical Review between 1968 and 1972, they found as many as 31% to be “redundant” (all cited in support, of the same point) and of, the remainder, 41% were “perfunctory” (not vital to the development of the citing paper).Google Scholar
  41. 49.
    For a discussion of the general point that citations can be used as a tool of persuasion, see G. N. GILBERT, Referencing as persuasion,Social Studies of Science, 7 (1977) 113.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of the notion of transference of prestige through citation see R. D. WHITLEY Communication nets in science,Sociological Review, 17 (1969) 219.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Léa Velho
    • 1
  1. 1.Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico Superintendência de Desenvolvimento Científico Coordenacão de Ciências AgráriasBrasilia(Brazil)

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