Laurie Taylor

March 8, 2002

"Citation counts could form a key component of a slimmed-down RAE" - Letter from Andy Smith and Mike Eysenck in The THES .

British Journal of Citation Studies . Volume 23. No. 3123.

The relevance of citations to the assessment of research excellence: a re-formulation

G. Lapping (University of Poppleton)


Recent research indicates a significant correlation between the number of citations received by individual researchers and other measures of research excellence (Lapping, 1987; Lapping and Odgers, 1994.).

This paper will examine the manner in which this correlation might be skewed by the inclusion in the citation count of what Lapping and Quintock (1995) have called "gratuitous citing".

This concept refers to the practice of citing articles that have little or no relevance to the topic under discussion in the research paper. Recent examples collected by Lapping and Quintock (2001) include a reference to a paper on the learning habits of elephants in an article otherwise dedicated to the reproductive system of the frog, and the citation of an article on medieval torture in an article primarily concerned with contemporary management systems in higher education.

Such "gratuitous citing" need not, however, lead to an abandonment of citations as an index of research excellence. Recent research suggests that the use of the GCDS (Gratuitous Citation Detection System) can in a significant number of cases lead to the recognition of "gratuitous citations" and thereby increase the reliability of the index. (Lapping and Lapping, 2002).

In the present article this procedure is tested by applying the GCDS to a recent edition of the British Journal of Comparative Golf Studies . A total of 26 gratuitous citations are detected: seven fall into what Lapping and Odgers (1998) have called the MMM category (Mentioning My Mates), and five are examples of the SIAFMRTMILG strategy (Sling in a few more references to make it look good).

The author concludes that more research of any kind whatsoever is desperately needed if we're to ever get more than a 4 (Lapping and Maureen, 2002. Forthcoming).

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