In response to my post, "Baz (and Mizrahi!) on the method of cases", specifically in response to concerns I raised about citation practices -- which I have raised before -- our own Moti Mizrahi proposed in the comments section that I begin a campaign for better citation practices broadly analogous to the Gendered Conference Campaign for gender-equity in philosophy conferences.
I think this is a potentially worthwhile idea. I am far from the first to note that citation practices in philosophy are problematic (see here, here, here, and here). Broadly speaking, citation practices in philosophy arguably unfairly privilege:
- Men over non-men
- The "famous" over the non-famous
- Articles that appear in "good journals" over those that appear in "bad journals", and
- "in groups" (i.e. people citing "friends" but not "people they've never heard of")
Furthermore, when I've raised this issue here before (and to people in person), I've elicited what I think are incorrect views about what citations are for. In response to my earlier post on this, one commenter suggested that citations are a form of giving "professional kudos" for good work (i.e. in good journals). This, in my view -- and in every other academic field -- is a profound misunderstanding of how citations are supposed to work. Citations exist for a very different reason: to point out to the reader the fact that someone has published on the relevant idea(s) previously. They are to give credit for the mere fact that previous work on the subject exists, and has appeared. To fail to cite a paper simply because you think it is "bad work" or not worth paying attention to is not the function of citations -- for it simply misleads the reader into thinking that work on the subject has not appeared when in fact it has. A more fundamental problem with the practice of citing "only things you find relevant" is that it invites bias, exclusion, institutional capture (i.e. "publication rings" of people just citing their friends' work), etc. (biases, exlusion, etc. which we have empirical evidence have systematically occurred in citations practices in philosophy).
All told, the evidence is that 82% of all humanities articles go uncited. This is in contrast to only 12% of articles in medicine. And I think it is unconscionable. Nobody should put great time and effort into publishing things that are then systematically ignored for reasons of gender, prestige, etc. Something ought to be done. But what? I think Moti has a good suggestion. Little seems to change in this world until some body of people stands up and says (as it were), "Enough." We should press for better citation practices in philosophy, and we can be the ones to do it -- if we so choose.
Should we so choose? How might we do it? Here is one possibility I have entertained: a new blog (maintained by me) where people can -- respectfully, and without "shaming" -- draw attention to what they feel to be wrongful citation omissions. As far as I am concerned, the posts on such a blog could be anonymous (to save the person from professional blowback). The only constraints might be that the posts would have to not involve "shaming" (they would simply say: I think article X should have cited articles Y and Z, but didn't), or any kind of slander or defamation. What does everyone think of this idea? Would it be a good idea? A bad idea? What? At this point, in my mind, it's just a thought -- but I think it is a thought worth discussing. I've personally seen what I take to be way too many articles that fail to cite recently and clearly relevant articles by lesser names. Also, in closing, I want to emphasize that I do not regard myself as above reproach when it comes to citations. On the contrary, if I have ever failed to cite someone I should have, I would like to know it! I would like to do a better job, giving credit where credit is due -- and this is precisely why I think a blog of the sort described above might be a good idea.