MEET: The Citation Culture

Gretchen Whitney gwhitney at UTKUX.UTCC.UTK.EDU
Thu Dec 9 17:48:46 EST 1999

Translated from the French by:
From: Tabah Albert <tabahan at EBSI.UMontreal.CA>

From: Roger Coronini
Subject: The Culture of Citation

The SERD INRA team at the UPMF (Universite Pierre Mendes France)  is
organizing a two-part seminar on the 14th of December at the CICG, Room R1,
351 Avenue de la Bibliotheque on the university campus of Saint Martin
d'Heres: at 2 p.m. a seminar on the new culture of citation and at 3:30 p.m.
a seminar on the transformations induced by the Internet on the research
process. These two conferences will be given by Paul Wouters.

Thank you for disseminating this information.

Paul Wouters is researcher in sociology and scientometrics at the Institute
for Information Sciences of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences:
The Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences
P.O.Box 95110
1090 HC Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel. 3120 4628654
Fax 3120 6658013


The increasing need for metrics in the scientific milieu has given rise to
new professions. Scientometricians are some of these new experts. They
measure science, often for the needs of science policy. This profession
was born during the 1960s and has been closely linked to the invention of
the Science Citation Index.

The development of scientometrics can be better understood if one can combine
it with the emerging new subculture: the citation culture. This subculture
has unintentionally and in a subtle fashion modified the basic concepts of
modern science, such as quality and influence. The citation culture and
especially the fact of being cited has evolved during the last twenty years
with a number of important consequences for scientists. In addition, it has
contributed to the transformation of the essence of science policy despite a
lack of apparent success for scientometrics. The objective of this seminar
is to explore the significance of this citation culture in the systematic
production of knowledge.

Nowadays, a scientific publication is easily recognized by its footnotes and
its references to other scientific articles and works. This is one of the
elements that makes a scientific text so different from the work of a
journalist or a fiction writer. The behavior of citations is largely a
function of personal traits. Nevertheless, within a scientific field, the
characteristics of a citation are more or less constant. One must therefore
speak of a culture of citation in the plural. The sciences welcome a
number of types of citation cultures, slightly different one from another.
The development of the scientific publication since the beginning of the 19th
century has provided a corpus of relatively stable citation cultures. The
continuous and steady development of citation behavior in scientific
publication has created a new resource for research and research policy:
citation data. Its use has been very rapid. In hindsight, its use seems
inevitable. In fact, if researchers cite a work that they have found useful,
a work that is highly cited seems to be more useful to research than works
that are not. Moreover, the number of times a document is cited seems to be
an accurate way to measure its impact, its influence or its quality. The same
is true for a group of papers concerning a scientist, a research group, a
journal or even an institution. The more they are cited, the bigger is their
influence. Citation frequency seems thus to be a good means to objectively
measure the usefulness, the quality and the impact of science. Whatever one's
opinions on citations, citation frequency is supposed to measure something
that already exists. It is an indicator of the results of scientific activity.
Citation analysis (the art of counting the number of citations) is a window
on the communication system between scientists. This seminar will ask
questions on the interpretation of the measure of science with citations. In
fact, citation culture is not only an aggregate or a set of elements derived
from citations. A citation, as used in scientometric analysis and by the
indicators of science and technology, is not the same as the one produced by
a scientist at his workstation. This is one of the first arguments of this
seminar: a citation is produced by indexers and not directly by the scientist.
The Science Citation Index is not simply a bibliographic tool. It creates a
new image of science across the bibliographic references available in the
scientific literature. This is how SCI provides a new representation of
science. It creates an image of science in the same way that a telephone book
creates a representation of the inhabitants of a city. This seminar will
provide the opportunity to discuss the principal properties of this new
representation of science and of its impact. It will also be an opportunity
to discuss its implications for scientometrics and to show how this approach
can redefine the theory of citation.


The Internet has profound consequences for science, the social sciences and
the humanities. How science will change is not very clear, yet. This is due
to the fact that the Internet is a recent phenomenon and is still being
modified. The seminar will allow to take stock of different fields such as
scientific communication, electronic journals, virtual libraries,
distributed databases, intelligent agents, changes in the relationship
between the private and the public, between researchers and commercial
publishers, and new ways of working, the sum total creating a new phenomenon:
Cyberscience. The seminar will mark a milestone in conceptualizing these new
developments based on science and information science.

Roger Coronini
Univesite Pierre Mendes France
Institut National de Recherche Agronomique
Sociologie et Economie de la Recherche Developpement
BP 47 38040 Grenoble cedex 9
Telephone :+33 (0) 4 76 82 54 56
Fax : +33 (0) 4 76 82 56 76
Email - professional :
Roger.Coronini at
Email - personal :
Roger.Coronini at

More information about the SIGMETRICS mailing list