Self-citation not needed

March 26, 2015

I am a postdoctoral researcher. Over the past few years, I have taken the inevitable step of peer-reviewing papers for a number of journals in my field of research. I read the article “Peer reviewing: a good deed and a good career move, too” (News, 12 March) and had to respond to some of the points that were perhaps not discussed.

Peer-reviewing has been a learning curve. I have considered it to be a rite of passage, a task that all on the academic path undertake to give something back.

However, my latest frustration with the peer-review process comes from authoring a paper. At first glance, the feedback that I received was constructive and no major changes were required. But after digging deeper I realised that one reviewer had clearly overstepped the mark and had made comments that were less than useful.

In short, the reviewer made a few short and vague points relating to the introduction that lacked “physical argumentation”. The suggestion to cite two totally irrelevant papers was my breaking point because they were as relevant to the paper as astrology is to astronomy.

And then I realised that peer-reviewing is an opportunity, not just a way of ensuring good research. In 2015, peer-reviewers are undertaking this work as a method of self-love, otherwise known as self-citation. The frustrating thing is that it is working, and no “index” can capture how useful this practice is for increasing your citation statistics. I’ll admit that on one occasion I have done the same, but the work was relevant to the paper in review.

To all authors out there: don’t roll over and allow peer-reviewers to piggyback their papers on to your work. I’d rather a career of low citations and high regard on other merits.

John Gallagher
Hydro-BPT research officer, Bangor University

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations