Sunday, December 17, 2017

Uncited Academic Papers

A very interesting discussion of citation in the sciences: Richard Van Noorden, The science that's never been cited. It notes, among other things, that accurately assessing whether any given paper has been cited, and what it even means when it is, is non-trivial, but I was particularly interested in this part, which identifies one very important problem with putting too much emphasis in the first place on whether a paper has been cited or not:

Still other articles might remain uncited because they close off unproductive avenues of research, says Niklaas Buurma, a chemist at Cardiff University, UK. In 2003, Buurma and colleagues published a paper about ‘the isochoric controversy’ — an argument about whether it would be useful to stop a solvent from contracting or expanding during a reaction, as usually occurs when temperatures change. In theory, this technically challenging experiment might offer insight into how solvents influence chemical reaction rates. But Buurma’s tests showed that chemists don’t learn new information from this type of experiment. “We set out to show that something was not worth doing — and we showed it,” he says. “I am quite proud of this as a fully uncitable paper,” he adds.

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