, Volume 85, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Weak evidence for determinants of citation frequency in ecological articles

  • André Andrian PadialEmail author
  • João Carlos Nabout
  • Tadeu Siqueira
  • Luis Mauricio Bini
  • José Alexandre Felizola Diniz-Filho


Citation frequency has been considered a biased surrogate of publication merit. However, previous studies on this subject were based on small sample sizes and were entirely based on null-hypothesis significance testing. Here we evaluated the relative effects of different predictors on citation frequency of ecological articles using an information theory framework designed to evaluate multiple competing hypotheses. Supposed predictors of citation frequency (e.g., number of authors, length of articles) accounted for a low fraction of the total variation. We argue that biases concerning citation are minor in ecology and further studies that attempt to quantify the scientific relevance of an article, aiming to make further relationships with citation, are needed to advance our understanding of why an article is cited.


Citation frequency Ecological articles Merit Biases 



We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments. We are also grateful to Amanda Winegardner, Ludgero G. Vieira and Marcos V. Cianciaruso for valuable discussions and suggestions during the preparation of this manuscript. A.A. Padial, J.C. Nabout and T. Siqueira acknowledge CAPES (Brazilian agency for Graduate Programs) and CNPq (Brazilian Agency for Scientific Research) for granting scholarships. L.M. Bini and J.A.F. Diniz-Filho are researchers of CNPq and also acknowledge this agency for research grants.


  1. Aksnes, D. W. (2003a). Characteristics of highly cited papers. Research Evaluation, 12, 159–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aksnes, A. W. (2003b). A macro study of self-citation. Scientometrics, 56, 235–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aksnes, D. W. (2006). Citation rates and perceptions of scientific contribution. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57, 169–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ball, P. (2008). A longerpaper gathers more citations. Nature, 455, 274–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhandari, M., Busse, J., Devereaux, P. J., Montori, V. M., Swiontkowski, M., Tornetta, P., et al. (2007). Factors associated with citation rates in the orthopedic literature. Canadian Journal of Surgery, 50, 119–123.Google Scholar
  6. Borsuk, R. M., Budden, A. E., Leimu, R., Aarssen, L. W., & Lortie, C. J. (2009). The influence of author gender, national language and number of authors on citation rate in ecology. The Open Ecology Journal, 2, 25–28.Google Scholar
  7. Burnham, K. P., & Anderson, D. R. (2002). Model selection and multi-model inference: A practical information-theoretic approach. Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  8. Celayir, S., Sander, S., Elicevik, M., Vural, A., & Celayir, A. C. (2008). The most commonly cited articles in Pediatric Surgical Journals. European Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 18, 160–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis, P. M., & Fromerth, M. J. (2007). Does the arXiv lead to higher citations and reduced publisher downloads for mathematics articles? Scientometrics, 71, 203–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Garfield, E. (1972). Citation analysis as a tool in journal evaluation. Science, 178, 471–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garfield, E. (1993). Citation depends upon the paper, not the journal! Don’t count on “Citation by association”!. Current Contents, 22, 5–6.Google Scholar
  12. Garfield, E. (2006). The history and meaning of the journal impact factor. Journal of the American Medical Association, 295, 90–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gehanno, J. F., Takahashi, K., Darmoni, S., & Weber, J. (2007). Citation classics in occupational medicine journals. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health, 33, 245–251.Google Scholar
  14. Glänzel, W., & Czerwon, H. J. (1992). What are highly cited publications? A method applied to German scientific papers, 1980–1989. Research Evaluation, 2, 135–141.Google Scholar
  15. Hollingsworth, R., Müller, K. H., & Hollingsworth, E. J. (2008). The end of the science superpowers. Nature, 454, 412–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Johnson, J. P., & Omland, K. S. (2004). Model selection in ecology and evolution. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 19, 101–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kademani, B. S., Kumar, V., Surwase, G., Sagar, A., Mohan, L., Kumar, A., et al. (2007). Research and citation impact of publications by the chemistry division at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. Scientometrics, 71, 25–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Killeen, P. R. (2005). An alternative to null-hypothesis significance tests. Psychological Science, 16, 345–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kostoff, R. N. (2007). The difference between highly and poorly cited medical articles in the journal Lancet. Scientometrics, 72, 513–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lakatos, I. (1970). Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Leimu, R., & Koricheva, J. (2005a). What determines the citation frequency of ecological papers? Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 20, 28–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Leimu, R., & Koricheva, J. (2005b). Does scientific collaboration increase the impact of ecological articles? BioScience, 55, 438–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Levin, S. A. (1992). The problem of pattern and scale in ecology. Ecology, 73, 1943–1967.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lokker, C., Mckibbon, K. A., Mckinlay, R. J., Wilczynski, N. L., & Haynes, R. B. (2008). Prediction of citation counts for clinical articles at two years using data available within three weeks of publication: Retrospective cohort study. British Medical Journal, 336, 655–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lortie, C. J., Aarssen, L. W., Budden, A. E., Koricheva, J. K., Leimu, R., & Tregenza, T. (2007). Publication bias and merit in ecology. Oikos, 116, 1247–1253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moed, H. F. (2007). The effect of “Open access”on citation impact: An analysis of ArXiv’s condensed matter section. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58, 2047–2054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nicolaisen, J., & Hjørland, B. (2007). Practical potentials of Bradford’s law: A critical examination of the received view. Journal of Documentation, 63, 359–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nieminen, P., Rucker, G., Miettunen, J., Carpenter, J., & Schumacher, M. (2007). Statistically significant papers in psychiatry were cited more often than others. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 60, 939–946.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pasterkamp, G., Rotmans, J. I., De Kleun, D. V. P., & Borst, C. (2007). Citation frequency: A biased measure of research impact significantly influenced by the geographical origin of research articles. Scientometrics, 70, 153–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Patterson, M. S., & Harris, S. (2009). The relationship between reviewers’ quality-scores and number of citations for papers published in the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology from 2003–2005. Scientometrics, 80, 345–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rangel, T. F. L. V. B., Diniz-Filho, J. A. F., & Bini, L. M. (2006). Towards an integrated computational tool for spatial analysis in macroecology and biogeography. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 15, 321–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shaffer, J. P. (1995). Multiple hypothesis testing: A review. Annual Review of Psychology, 46, 561–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. van Dalen, H. P., & Henkens, K. (2001). What makes a scientific article influential? The case of demographers. Scientometrics, 50, 455–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Walters, G. D. (2006). Predicting subsequent citations to articles published in twelve crime-psychology journals: Author impact versus journal impact. Scientometrics, 69, 499–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Yu, G., & Li, Y. J. (2007). Parameter identification of the observed citation distribution. Scientometrics, 71, 339–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Zar, J. H. (1998). Biostatistical analysis. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • André Andrian Padial
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • João Carlos Nabout
    • 1
  • Tadeu Siqueira
    • 1
    • 3
  • Luis Mauricio Bini
    • 1
  • José Alexandre Felizola Diniz-Filho
    • 1
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-graduação em Ecologia e Evolução, Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade Federal de GoiásGoiâniaBrazil
  2. 2.Campus Nova Andradina, Instituto Federal de EducaçãoCiência e Tecnologia de Mato Grosso do SulNova AndradinaBrazil
  3. 3.Universidade Federal de São CarlosSão CarlosBrazil

Personalised recommendations