Paradox of post-publication citation

Publication records are one of the objective criterion one can use to assess scientist’s value. Of course, every scientist has a dream and desire to publish in top journals such as Nature or Science with impact factors 25 and higher .

However, absolute majority of research articles end up in society-sponsored journals. For example, Journal of Immunology, with impact factor between 3-5, is considered to be a “staple” journal in immunology. Scientist can publish his/her research article in Journal of Immunology and still feel “proud” of it.

Sure, there is enormous difference between Nature and Science and Journal of Immunology. First of all, it has to do with the branding. Both Nature and Science have huge reputation. People naturally assume that articles published there are of higher quality and reliable and indeed, on average it is absolutely true.

However, there is paradox with the regard of post-publication citations or referencing. I have frequently witnessed the fact that when scientists are presenting their work at research seminars or at scientific conferences, they are consistently citing or referring to any earlier studies as if totally equal, i.e. independent whether the referred studies were originally published in Nature, Science or Journal of Immunology (or PNAS).

In other words their confidence in reliability and quality of research results from Nature or Journal of Immunology are equal.

Logically, if you cite article from Journal of Immunology or Nature as if equal, then you accept that these journals publish equivalently valuable research results.

If so, then why are scientists still eager to publish in Nature or Science? I don’t know, that’s why it is a paradox.

posted by David Usharauli

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