Coercive Citation in Academic Publishing

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Science  03 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6068, pp. 542-543
DOI: 10.1126/science.1212540

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Despite their shortcomings (14), impact factors continue to be a primary means by which academics “quantify the quality of science” (5). One side effect of impact factors is the incentive they create for editors to coerce authors to add citations to their journal. Coercive self-citation does not refer to the normal citation directions, given during a peer-review process, meant to improve a paper. Coercive self-citation refers to requests that (i) give no indication that the manuscript was lacking in attribution; (ii) make no suggestion as to specific articles, authors, or a body of work requiring review; and (iii) only guide authors to add citations from the editor's journal. This quote from an editor as a condition for publication highlights the problem: “you cite Leukemia [once in 42 references]. Consequently, we kindly ask you to add references of articles published in Leukemia to your present article” (6). Gentler language may be used, but the message is clear: Add citations or risk rejection.

  • * Authors contributed equally to this work.