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Measuring national self-referencing patterns of major science producers

Abstract

This paper analyzes national self-referencing patterns (i.e. the tendency of researchers to cite from the same country) of six major science producers (China, France, Germany, Japan, UK, and USA). While the results highlight a continuing decline of national references (except for China), all countries’ referencing patterns remain heavily oriented towards national papers throughout the 1980–2017 period. The results also indicate, as could be expected, that national referencing patterns are more pronounced in social sciences and humanities than in natural sciences and engineering and biomedical sciences. National references are also smaller in internationally co-authored papers than in strictly national papers. Finally, a significant part of the national referencing bias can be attributed to authors citing their previous works.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    One might argue that the percentages of national self-references and reference-to-publication ratios would be different if full counting of references and papers was used instead of fractional counting. We tested both methods and, while the values are indeed very slightly different, the trends over time are essentially the same for all countries. The aim of this work is to assess the extent to which researchers of a given country rely on their national scientific production (and consequently, also on the scientific production of foreign countries). Fractional counting is better suited in this situation, since it acknowledges the fact that citing a national paper written in international collaboration comes down to relying on nationally produced knowledge but also on knowledge produced abroad.

  2. 2.

    The curves for BIOMED are not shown but they are very similar to NSE.

  3. 3.

    To be sure, it is possible that papers written in French and containing a French address be published in a Swiss, Belgian or Canadian social science journal. However, the number of such papers is marginal comparatively to the number of French papers published in the French social science journals that are indexed in the WoS.

  4. 4.

    This list of countries includes in alphabetical order: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South-Africa, South-Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States of America.

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Correspondence to Mahdi Khelfaoui.

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Khelfaoui, M., Larrègue, J., Larivière, V. et al. Measuring national self-referencing patterns of major science producers. Scientometrics 123, 979–996 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03381-0

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Keywords

  • Self-references
  • Self-citations
  • Reference-to-publication ratio
  • International collaboration