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Alexander Oettl, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management
Alexander Oettl, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management

Assessing the Role of Negative Citations in Science

The number of times academic articles are cited by subsequent publications is among the time-honored measures used to assess scholarly standing and evaluate academic productivity. But not all of these citations are positive ones, and a paper published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that as many as one in 50 citations in a top immunology journal were critical in nature.

These negative citations may point out limitations, inconsistences or flaws in previous work. The study found that these negative citations were more likely to criticize highly-read papers, and that the criticisms focused on specific sections of the papers. Negative citations tended to originate from scholars who were close to the authors of the original articles in academic discipline and social distance – but at least 150 miles away geographically.

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