Skip to main content

Does self-citation pay?

Abstract

Self-citations — those where authors cite their own works — account for a significant portion of all citations. These self-references may result from the cumulative nature of individual research, the need for personal gratification, or the value of self-citation as a rhetorical and tactical tool in the struggle for visibility and scientific authority. In this article we examine the incentives that underlie self-citation by studying how authors’ references to their own works affect the citations they receive from others. We report the results of a macro study of more than half a million citations to articles by Norwegian scientists that appeared in the Science Citation Index. We show that the more one cites oneself the more one is cited by other scholars. Controlling for numerous sources of variation in cumulative citations from others, our models suggest that each additional self-citation increases the number of citations from others by about one after one year, and by about three after five years. Moreover, there is no significant penalty for the most frequent self-citers — the effect of self-citation remains positive even for very high rates of self-citation. These results carry important policy implications for the use of citations to evaluate performance and distribute resources in science and they represent new information on the role and impact of self-citations in scientific communication.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. M. H. MacRoberts, B. R. MacRoberts, Problems of citation analysis: A critical review, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 40 (1989) 342–349.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. P. O. Seglen, Citations and journal impact factors: Questionable indicators of research quality, Allergy, 52 (1997) 1050–1056.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. D. W. Aksnes, A macro study of self-citation, Scientometrics, 56 (2003) 235–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. T. J. Phelan, A compendium of issues for citation analysis, Scientometrics, 45 (1999) 117–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. S. M. Lawani, On the heterogeneity and classification of author self-citations, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 33 (1982) 281–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. W. Glänzel, B. Thijs, B. Schlemmer, A bibliometric approach to the role of author self-citations in scientific communication, Scientometrics, 59 (2004) 63–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. S. Bonzi, H. W. Snyder, Patterns of self-citation across fields of inquiry, Proceedings of the ASIS annual meeting, 27 (1990) 204–207.

    Google Scholar 

  8. H. Snyder, S. Bonzi, Patterns of self-citation across disciplines (1980–1989), Journal of Information Science, 24 (1998) 432–435.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. R. Tagliacozzo, Self-citation in scientific literature, Journal of Documentation, 33 (1977) 251–265.

    Google Scholar 

  10. W. Glänzel, K. Debackere, B. Thijs, A. Schubert, A concise review on the role of author self-citations in information science, bibliometrics and science policy, Scientometrics, 67 (2006) 263–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. B. Thijs, W. Glänzel, The influence of author self-citations on bibliometric meso-indicators. The case of European universities, Scientometrics, 66 (2005) 71–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. T. N. van Leeuwen, E. J. Rinia, A. F. J. van Raan, Bibliometric Profiles of Academic Physics Research in the Netherlands, Report CWTS 96-09, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  13. M. E. J. Newman, Scientific collaboration networks: I. Network construction and fundamental results, Physical Review E, 64 (2001) 016131.

  14. M. E. J. Newman, Scientific collaboration networks: II. Shortest paths, weighted networks, and centrality, Physical Review E, 64 (2001) 016132.

  15. M. H. Medoff, The efficiency of self-citations in economics, Scientometrics, 69 (2006) 69–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. D. W. Aksnes, Characteristics of highly cited papers, Research Evaluation, 12 (2003) 159–170.

    Google Scholar 

  17. R. K. Merton, The Matthew Effect in Science, Science, 159 (1968) 56–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. J. S. Long, Productivity and academic position in the scientific career, American Sociological Review, 43 (1978) 889–908.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James H. Fowler.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fowler, J.H., Aksnes, D.W. Does self-citation pay?. Scientometrics 72, 427–437 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-007-1777-2

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-007-1777-2

Keywords

  • Citation Analysis
  • Citation Count
  • Total Citation
  • Matthew Effect
  • Additional Citation