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News Picks : Negative citations of scientific papers are rare

By: Physics Today
27 October 2015
Nature: One way of rating a scientific paper’s significance is by the number of times it is cited in other scientists’ work. However, a paper could be cited for its flaws rather than its merits. A study conducted by Alexander Oettl of Georgia Tech and his colleagues found that few scientific papers are cited in a negative way, and those that do receive negative citations tend to be of higher quality. The researchers looked at more than 760 000 citations—of roughly 150 000 papers—from about 16 000 articles in the Journal of Immunology. They found that just 2.4% of the citations were negative and that only 7.1% of the 150 000 papers referenced received a negative citation. Furthermore, the papers that received a negative citation tended to be the ones with the most citations overall, which is generally regarded as a measure of their success. Next, Oettl is planning to use a similar method to look at negative citations in other fields of study.

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