One in Four Citations in Marine Biology Papers is Inappropriate

This is the title of a paper by P.A. Todd et al. in v.408 2010 of Marine Ecology Progress Series. The abstract of the paper is below.

Joe Wible
Hopkins Marine Station

ABSTRACT: Citing sources that do not support the assertion being made can misinform readers, per- petuate mistakes and deny credit to the researchers who should have been acknowledged. To quan- tify citation fidelity in marine biology, we retrieved 198 papers from 2 recent issues of 33 marine biol- ogy journals. From each paper we randomly selected 1 citation, recovered the source material, and evaluated its appropriateness. We discovered that the assertion was ‘clearly supported’ by the cita- tion in only 75.8% of cases, the support was ‘ambiguous’ in 10.6% of cases and the citation offered ‘no support’ to the original statement in 6.0% of cases. The remaining 7.6% of cases were classified as ‘empty’ (citations to secondary sources). We found no relationship between citation appropriate- ness and the position of the assertion in the paper, number of authors, number of references, article length and Journal Impact Factor. That 1 in 4 citations in marine biology should be viewed with scep- ticism is alarming and has important ramifications for both scholarship and bibliometrics.

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