On the heels of GG’s tirade about really lousy citation of literature, we find a recent paper by Ole Bjørn Rekdal pointed out by Retraction Watch that has this to say about citations:
Due to the digital revolution, it has never been easier to look up and verify, learn from, and check the relevance of sources being referred to. Instead of grabbing this opportunity to increase the quality of academic publications, a wave of scholars is doing exactly the opposite. Academia is being flooded by irrelevant, useless, and outright misleading references, and we are at risk of losing respect for one of the most important tools we have for academic communication and the joint project of building knowledge.
(In following the suggestions in that text, we note this is from page 582 of the preprint). GG couldn’t agree more. Anyways, this is a far more thoughtful screed on the whole issue of citation abuse and (aside from the annoying preprint text layered across it) is very readable.
For those with little patience, the main points are that (1) citations increasingly are becoming too vague to locate the source of the material being cited (this is not as critical in most earth science, where citations to books are relatively rare), (2) citations to primary sources are not being made (this was GG’s gripe), (3) citation of secondary sources (or simply reproducing citations to primary sources without checking them) leads to a game of telephone and subsequent misrepresentations of the literature, (4) citations are mistakenly being used for self promotion (mainly by journals–GG has not seen this in practice in geoscience–and individuals–GG has seen this), and (5) an overload of citations as window dressing to feign knowledge is also a bit of a trend. Again, a worthwhile read for anybody in the science biz.