By Moti Mizrahi
The other day I read yet another paper that does not cite my work. This time, the author (a well-known philosopher from a ranked PhD program) used an example I use in one of my papers to make an argument for an opposing conclusion. When I pointed this out on Twitter, the author responded to my tweet and said "I wasn’t aware of your work." "That’s precisely the problem," I replied.
As readers of the Philosophers’ Cocoon probably know, Marcus and I have been concerned about citation practices in Philosophy for quite some time. Marcus even had a guest post on the Daily Nous, urging professional philosophers to read and cite more.
Unfortunately, bibliometric data suggest that citation trends in Philosophy are getting much worse. For example, the percentage of cited philosophy articles (from the Scopus database) has declined dramatically since the early 2000, to the point where, in 2014, only 10% of philosophy articles were cited, as the following figure shows.
And the next figure shows that philosophy articles average less than five cites per article.
(As a philosopher of science, I take some comfort in the fact that HPS articles average between 15 and 20 cites per article.)
Clearly, there is a serious problem with citation in Philosophy. What should we do about it?
In light of the comments made so far, I would like to make a few clarifications:
First, I am not accusing anyone. I am trying to point to disciplinary trends. I think we should all be concerned about these trends.
Second, the first chart shows the percentage of cited articles in a given year. The second chart shows how many times philosophy articles are cited, on average.
Third, I don't find these data surprising at all. In fact, they are consistent with Healy's citation analyses. However, readers are invited to follow the links and check out the data for themselves.
Several commenters attribute the decline in citations to the fact that it takes time to read and cite articles. So it is not surprising, they claim, that recent articles aren’t cited (or are cited less than less recent ones).
Although that sounds plausible, it is not supported by the data. To see why, compare Philosophy to HPS. In HPS, recent articles are cited less but the decline is more recent than in Philosophy (2007 in Philosophy vs. 2010 in HPS) and, still, in 2014, between 30% and 40% of HPS articles were cited, whereas only 10% of Philosophy articles were cited.
Moreover, even though the number of articles published in Philosophy and HPS between 2012 and 2013 is roughly the same (approximately 3,000), HPS articles average between 15 and 20 cites, whereas Philosophy articles average less than 5 cites per article.
Instead of posting speculations about and misinterpretations of the data, I urge people to go to the SJR website and check out the data for themselves. The fact that you don’t believe the data doesn’t mean that the data are faulty.
The first chart about Philosophy (not HPS) does not show that “the majority of papers get cited by someone.” It cannot possibly show that. Rather, it shows the percentage of cited philosophy articles in a given year.
The second chart about Philosophy (not HPS) does not show that “after a few years (how many?) the average citation rate for philosophy papers is somewhere between one and two.” It cannot possibly show that. Rather, it shows that, between 2012 and 2013, philosophy articles were cited less than 5 times, on average. Here is another graph that shows this.
When looking at these data, instead of thinking that Philosophy isn’t as bad as Religious Studies, I’d rather think about ways to make Philosophy as good as HPS. But maybe that’s just me.