Science journal claimed
“Clubby and ‘disturbing’ citation behavior by researchers in Italy has surged”
The rate at which scientists in Italy cite themselves and their compatriots is rising faster than in 10 other developed countries, according to a new study. The surge in Italy’s clubby citation behavior is likely the result of a 2010 law requiring productivity standards for academic recruitment or promotion, the study authors say.
The findings are a cautionary tale for research administrators who rely too much on citation metrics in allocating resources and making decisions on career advancement, says study author Giuseppe De Nicolao, an engineer at the University of Pavia in Italy. Linking professional advancement to citation indicators can prod scientists into unintended behaviors and make the metrics unreliable, he says.
The findings are “disturbing,” says Ludo Waltman, a bibliometric expert at Leiden University in the Netherlands who was not involved in the study. To limit questionable citation practices, Waltman says, the Italian evaluation system should exclude self-citations and consider factors such as a researcher’s experience and activities in addition to citation counts.
After the 2010 law was passed, Italy began to regulate academic recruitment and promotion using indicators such as citation counts. It was intended to address concerns about nepotism and a lack of meritocracy.
Under the policy, academics can’t seek a job or a promotion as an associate or full professor unless they meet at least two of three indicators of research productivity. In fields such as medicine and natural sciences, these indicators include the number of publications, the number of citations received, and h-index—a combined measure of productivity and citation impact.
It is funny to read that other countries always question Italy. It is even much more amusing to see that this often happens from inside. And this time it’s research turn.
News: Italian researchers cite themselves too much. This is disturbing. Claims journals.
However, what does “too much” means? When is “too much”? If this wave of self-citations is due to Gelmini law and the inclusion of bibliometric indicators into the evaluation practices of Italian researchers, why not focusing on another index, not on quantity, but on pertinence, relevance, germaneness?
Are these citations not pertinent to the work in which they were reported? This can be the right question to explain our difficult and complex culture and system.
Are they disturbing compared to what? Other countries? …are we really comparable along this line, following this logic?
No secrets, no tricks. We might be just a novel and case-study compared to other countries. Actually, it is exactly what our colleagues found in their comparative analysis published in PlosOne recently. Nothing more. No clubs or network cliques.
Authors stated “Italy became, both globally and for a large majority of the research fields, the country with the highest inwardness and the lowest rate of international collaborations. The change in the Italian trend occurs in the years following the introduction in 2011 of national regulations in which key passages of professional careers are governed by bibliometric indicators.”
Yes, it is true. Sometimes quantity is more rewarded than quality. Our choice? I don’t think so. Did we adapt in a respectful way? Yes! How? We thought outside the box.
What does it mean? Easy to say. Also Authors suggested this as a possible explanation but maybe, they should deepen one point. They claimed that:
“Two explanations for an increase of cardinality of physiological quota A could be advanced. According to the first one, internationalization, the increase may be due to a sudden rise, after 2009, of the amount of international collaborations of Italian scholars. In fact, we have already observed that, other things left unchanged, an increase of international collaboration positively affects the inwardness indicator. However, Fig 2 rules out this explanation. No peculiar increase in the Italian international collaboration can be spotted”.
Maybe, it is not the case that we collaborate more with European or Extra-european researchers or that our research topics are narrow. Maybe, we collaborate better. We might be just more social than other researchers. Maybe, we pay more attention to what other colleagues already published, because we know them in person, and we are really interested in their work across the globe.
We are just more smartly social than other researchers. We don’t need many social dinners, social events or forced happy hours. We care about other people, other researchers naturally or given our educational path, especially if they are Italians and do valuable research. The answer maybe not in the cliques, but in the whole network.
Nothing new under the sun, check one of my previous articles: https://transformativexperiences.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/how-to-win-an-erc-grant-being-social-in-social-sciences/
I thank Authors for their valuable analysis.
I just beg journalists to study more and not spread fake news about Italians, especially to Italians. We are a community. Just ask to researchers. We can help you read also scientific articles in the right way.