ABS: Schwartz, The rise and fall of uncitedness

Gretchen Whitney gwhitney at UTKUX.UTCC.UTK.EDU
Mon Nov 6 18:26:34 EST 2000

Author's e-mail address: Charles A. Schwartz : tony at delphinus.lib.umb.edu

TITLE           The rise and fall of uncitedness
AUTHOR   Schwartz CA

 Document type: Article    Language: English    Cited References: 42
Times Cited: 4

Large-scale uncitedness refers to the remarkable proportion of articles that
do not receive a single citation within five years of
publication. Equally remarkable is the brief and troubled history of this
area of inquiry, which was prone to miscalculation,
misinterpretation, and politicization. This article reassesses large-scale
uncitedness as both a general phenomenon in the scholarly
communication system and a case study of library and information science,
where its rate is 72 percent.

KeyWords Plus:

MA 01003.


IDS Number:


Cited Author            Cited Work                Volume      Page      Year

                       NEW SCI                      131         3      1993
                       SCIENCE                      251      1408      1991
                       SSCI J CITATION REPO
 ABT HA                SCIENCE                      251      1408      1991
 ATKINSON RD           TORPEDO NETWORKED AC                            1995
 BAILEY CW             E COMMUNICATION 0614                            1996
 BAILEY CW             NETWORK BASED ELECT                             1995
 BARRY J               HYPERTEXT MARKUP LAN                            1994
 BEGLEY S              NEWSWEEK                     125        44      1991
 BOTT DM               AM SOCIOLOGY                  22       147      1991
 BROOKS TA             J AM SOC INFORM SCI           36       223      1985
 BUDD JM               COLL RES LIBR                 52       290      1991
 CHUBIN DE             SOCIOLOGY SCI ANNOTA                     3      1983
 COLE JR               SCIENCE                      178       368      1972
 EAGLY RV              J ECON LIT                    13       878      1975
 ERNST E               NATURE                       352       560      1991
 FEEHAN PE             LIBR INFORM SCI RES            9       173      1987
 GAREAU W              INT J COMP SOCIOL             24       248      1983
 GARFIELD              SURG NEUROL                   37        69      1992
 GARFIELD E            ESSAYS INFORMATION S          14       390      1991
 GARFIELD E            ESSAYS INFORMATION S          12       123      1989
 GASSET JOY            REVOLT MASSES                           84      1932
 HAMILTON DP           SCIENCE                      250      1331      1990
 HARGENS LL            CONTEMP SOCIOL                20       343      1991
 HARTER SP             PUBLIC ACCESS COMPUT           7                1966
 HOLZNER B             KNOWLEDGE APPL                         226      1979
 JENKINS AH            COLL RES LIB NEWS             55       368      1994
 KIM MT                LIBR INFORM SCI RES           14        75      1992
 METZ P                COLL RES LIBR                 50        42      1989
 PATTERSON SC          PS POLITICAL SCI DEC                   765      1991
 PENDLEBURY D          COMMUNICATION   1208                            1994
 PENDLEBURY DA         SCIENCE                      251      1410      1991
 PERITZ BC             SCIENTOMETRICS                20       121      1991
 PRICE DD              SCIENCE                      149       512      1965
 RICE RE               SCHOLARLY COMMUNICAT                   138      1990
 SALANCIK GR           ADMIN SCI QUART               31       194      1986
 SCHWARTZ CA           COLL RES LIBR                 55       101      1994
 SCOTT P               USING HYTELNET ACCES                            1992
 SEGLEN PO             J AM SOC INFORM SCI           43       628      1992
 SIEKEVITZ P           FASEB J                        5       139      1991
 STERN RE              J AM SOC INFORM SCI           41       193      1990
 STERN RE              SCIENCE                      251        25      1991

"Concluding Observations:

The publication of ISI numbers showing high rates of uncitedness for major
disciplines in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities attracted
widespread attention and reaction.  However, it also led to a problem.
Although measurement of uncitedness at the major discipline level was
technically feasible, it generated findings that had only limited meaning,
were misinterpreted, and would be challenged by anyone's "reality check" of
a few select journals.  At the same time, the promised new work in
uncitednessat the subdiscipline level was by no means certain to prove
technically feasible or to generate more palatable results.

Although disagregating marginalia and foreign authors was easy for ISI to
do, rescaling its databases to calculate scores (or hundreds) of
subdisciplinary uncitedness rates would have been a huge engineering task.
As other research shows, it would have been highly subjective as well.  To
conceptualize and delineate what are variously termed research specialties,
fields, communities, invisible colleges, networks, etc., is a severely
ambiguous problem.  Further, ISI's decision not to embark on the promised
new project may well have included an understandable concern that
politicization of large-scale uncitedness might have an adverse effect on
federal funding programs, impairing its relations with the rest of the
scholarly community.

Nevertheless, large-scale uncitedness was an important discovery signifying
a far more loosely coupled, noninteractive scholarly communication system
than anyone had suggested.  LIS for example, has only two salient patterns
of influence or interaction between subdisciplines; both are unidirectional
and establish C&RL's central-most position in the LIS system, as a storer of
Library Journal messages (from librarianship) and as a feeder of messages to
Library Quarterly (in information science).  There is no two-way (congruent)
co-citation pattern between any of the subdisciplines;  they are largely
autonomous.  (Perhaps the lack of any pattern linking information science
and librarianship reflects the proverbial gap between theory and practice.)

Although such general patterns of noninteractiveness are useful for
visualizing uncitedness, they do not "prove" or "disprove" ISI's findings.
At any rate, uncitedness is an elusive concept and rates of uncitedness have
a widely differing significance or meaning among units of the scholarly
communication system.  Also, noteworthy, uncitedness is less informative
than the extreme variance of citedness among articles within the same
journal.  Comparative analysis in this area might prove interesting.   Is
the variance within C&RL (ranging for volume 50 from one-quarter of articles
being uncited after five years, to half being cited once and a fifth being
cited a few times, to a twentieth being heavily cited) a stable of erratic
phenomenon?  Is that similar to the variance within other LIS journals?
Would citation analysis of a whole set of heavily cited articles yield
reliable generalizations about such significant influence or interaction in
our profession's research literature?

On a final note, one other unexplored area warrants future research.  It
involves the issue of uncitedness versus usefulness for
practitioner-oriented articles or journals.  We know, for example, that C&RL
News (which is not even included in ISI's database) is more "valued" than
C&RL by the membership of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
Also, at least a few electronic articles have been retrieved many thousands
of times, although articles in electronic journals generally have a
negligible impact in the scholarly communication system, as measured by
citation analysis.  Of course, retrieval (downloading or printing) is no
more a measure of usefulness than citation is a signifier of scholarly
quality.  Nevertheless, research in this area might enable us to put in
better perspective the phenomenon of large-scale uncitedness, as well as the
image of LIS as a fragmented discipline with discrete journal networks
operating in small, bounded subdisciplines."

(c) ISI, Reprinted with permission
Please visit their website at www.isinet.com

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