**Update: In further work today, I found a couple of errors--incorrect affiliations--which I've now fixed. This affected the numbers a wee bit, pushing means/medians down a bit in 50+-ranked category, the means and medians up in top-10, and mean (but not median) up for 31-40. The general trends are same as before, particularly for median citation rates.
Regular readers of the Cocoon may recall that I have an interest in the sociology of philosophy--that is, with the social processes that push philosophy forward. As I have explained before, I do not think it is obvious that good arguments are a dominant force in philosophical progress, as opposed to other sociological forces such as the following type of snowball effect:
Could it be...that this is how philosophy sometimes/often progresses: by largely arbitrary snowball-effects in which (A) a few thought-experiments/intuitions by a few famous people, (B) attract a few followers, which then (C) attract more followers, which then (D) marginalize people who do not share the dominant intuitions, thereby (E) leading the dominant class to conceive themselves as making progress on the basis of good arguments when, in reality, (F) the correct explanation of that "progress" is the aforementioned snowball effect (i.e. a self-reinforcing system of people with the "right intuitions" dominating/marginalizing those with "the wrong intuitions")?
Notice that I am not asserting that sociological forces push philosophy forward more than good arguments. All I am suggesting is that it is a question worth investigating. But, how might we investigate it? I am not sure. However, readers may also recall that I am interested in citation practices, specifically the way in which dominant--and I believe problematic--citation practices in philosophy may systematically affect who gets included and excluded from "the philosophical conversation."
Because of these concerns, I have started collecting more citation data. This weekend, I collected and analyzed data on every article published in Mind and The Philosophical Review during the period of 2005-2009, to examine relationships between (A) how often articles in those journals have been cited, with (B) the Leiter rank of each author's home department. My curiosity here was inspired by recent discussion of self-promotion at Daily Nous. Some people seem to think if work is good, it doesn't need to be promoted: it will speak for itself, and people will read and cite it. But, is this true? It occurred to me that we might see whether this is the case by looking at who gets cited. So, here's what I found in Mind and Phil Review from 2005-2009.
Average citations received by authors from Leiter top-10 departments
- Mean: 57 (revised upwards from 47)
- Median: 37 (revised upwards from 31)
Average citations received by authors from Leiter 11-20 departments
- Mean: 34 (no change)
- Median: 24 (no change)
Average citations received by authors from Leiter 21-30 departments
- Mean: 28 (revised from 27)
- Median: 19 (revised from 15)
Average citations received by authors from Leiter 31-40 departments
- Mean: 50 (revised upwards from 34)
- Median: 16 (no change)
Average citations received by authors from Leiter 41-50 departments
- Mean: 22 (no change)
- Median: 13 (no change)
Average citations received by authors from Leiter 50+ departments
- Mean: 36 (revised down from 39)
- Median: 18 (revised down from 20).
In short, although there is some noise (including a couple of extreme outliers that [UPDATED] pushed means up high in two categories), authors from Leiter top-10 departments were cited about 1.5-2x more often than people from lower-ranked departments, at least if we are looking at medians. I was also particularly struck by the fact that of those papers published by authors in Leiter 50+ ranked departments during this time that received fewer than 10 citations, the majority of them were by authors at foreign departments or small colleges, including:
- Ithaca College
- Amherst College
In other words, it looks like if you are from a small college or foreign unranked university, almost no one will cite you even if you publish in Mind or Phil Review.
Although these prestige effects are not entirely unsurprising, these data suggest to me that perhaps "letting one's work speak for itself" is not all it's cracked up to be--particularly if you are an author from a small college or foreign university. Maybe some self-promotion, indeed, is in order. In any case, I will report back with added data from Nous and PPR in a week or two.