The op cit effect

April 17, 2008

I recently wrote a paper on mathematical notation and its automatic treatment that was submitted to a significant conference in the field. In it I had to cite various examples of actual notation.

One referee wrote: "The reference to (11) is inappropriate. Just to cite a badly written paper? One could cite thousands of other poorly written ones. And it gives a citation for that paper now! Consider that simply the number of citations is sometimes taken as a rough estimate for the impact of that paper, so citing it virtually increases the impact factor of (11)."

It seems I have three choices.

(1) Press on, risk rejection of the paper, and if my paper is accepted, give (11) a brownie point?

(2) Delete (11) and make my paper less credible and open to the attack "surely he is exaggerating?"

(3) Have a "covert reference" to (11), for example in a footnote, but not in the list of references. This would seem to be acknowledging that the bean-counters have defeated the scholars.

What do readers think?

James Davenport, Hebron and Medlock professor of information, technology, University of Bath.

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