please add at least five more relevant-(name of my journal) sources

Recently, Allen Wilhite (Department of Economics,University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Eric A. Fong (Department of Management, University of Alabama in Huntsville, have been looking into “editorial citation requests.” Also referred to as Journal Self-Citation (Communications of the Association for Information Systems has a nice 22 article collection on the topic), editors ask authors to include a number of citations (not in your original paper) to your paper that [conspicuously] come from the editor’s journal.

I have had this experience in the past and I think Fabio might have too. Back then, as a graduate student, I didn’t think anything of the practice as I was mainly focused on publishing rather than potential ethical issues for editors.

So, what are some thoughts about this, ethically speaking? Also, what about as a strategy to increase the citation rate of the journal or its ranking? Is this a viable practice whereby editors force at least somebody to read their sometimes obscure journals? Is there an underlying model driving this behavior among editors?

My take, at least when it happened to me, was that the journal wanted to know how a topic in the literature played out broadly in the field but also how it has been raised narrowly in their particular journal. It was rationalized to me and my co-author as “making certain of the fit of your article with our journal” … talk about a precise pressure point!

See Wilhite and Fong’s on-line solicitation and survey below.

Written by Nicholas

May 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm

14 Responses

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  1. I also received this email and, while interested in the topic, am wondering how I got on the list, especially since the unsubscribe link doesn’t work. Hope they didn’t e-mail Gelman!



    May 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

  2. Anybody else get this? Is it spam? If so, I’d be happy to discuss that issue: academic spam…



    May 12, 2010 at 5:45 pm

  3. I noted this a few weeks ago (see #4: and there were some nice comments about the survey design.


    Jenn Lena

    May 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm

  4. I am waiting for the survey about how many times the editor has demanded his/her own work to be cited, not just the journal. Three times for papers I co-authored with graduate students…



    May 12, 2010 at 6:27 pm

  5. Jenn, for some reason that goes to a post of yours about a fued between 50 Cent and Kanye West.



    May 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm

  6. WTF? Well, April 27, 2010 entry at Now just watch: that will re-direct you to Al-Jezeera.


    Jenn Lena

    May 12, 2010 at 7:56 pm

  7. Back in the day, many schools evaluated faculty based on “productivity” (article counts), fancy schools evaluated faculty based on “impact” (citation counts), and the most elite schools actually claimed to read one’s work to assess its true quality. As recently as the mid-1990s, citation counts required a trip to the libary for the print version of the Social Science Citation Index, and reading papers actually required, well, reading.
    Now, the instant accessibility of “impact” measures (ISI and Google) seem to have turned citations into a form of circle jerk, and reading has become optional. I’m not sure if the survey alluded to above will generate reliable data, but I’d enjoy reading the anecdotes.


    Jerry Davis

    May 13, 2010 at 1:00 am

  8. I agree that the practice seems an ethical breach; I’ve certainly never had it requested of me, and my estimation of the journal involved would certainly decline.

    On the other hand, the “survey” these guys are peddling is pretty pathetic. It’s so one-sided and leading that any data gleaned will turn out to be useless IMHO; the best they can hope for is “We were able to convince xxx% of respondents to agree with us.” Like Gelman, I emailed them that advice. No response…. tick-tock…


    Andrew Perrin

    May 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm

  9. well, i wouldn’t go so far as to say the results will be useless. if i were a peer reviewer or editor it would be a tough call but i would probably publish it if they have several citations to my work and my journal. (hint, hint)



    May 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

  10. […] de la publication : certaines revues américaines demandent qu’on les cite. Il faudrait que je fonde le Journal of Self […]


  11. Because the survey was so horribly designed, and because I had just read Gelman’s piece about email survey deception, I immediately assumed that there was some ulterior motive to the study, and that it wasn’t a study of editor bias at all.

    Because I didn’t think anyone out there could really make such glaring errors in research design, but then I tend to be too generous on things like this.



    May 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

  12. Wouldn’t that be hilarious if this email/survey was just some sort of social psychology experiment? I’d be REALLY interested in the results if that were the case.



    May 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm

  13. I also received the same email to participate in the study. The introduction was so oddly worded that I assumed that the text was priming for a condition as part of a social psych experiment. (Either that or someone is ticked off about the publishing process, and probably rightfully so.) Nevertheless, I assume that the open-ended section for notes/venting will provide much rich analysis.



    May 15, 2010 at 3:05 am

  14. The editors’ requests to add citations from their journal is unethical.

    If the editors could actually point to a relevant work that the author missed, that would be appropriate. This, however, is blackmail.

    In the infamous “Sokal Affair” the editors of _Social Text_ were beguiled, in part, by Alan Sokal’s citations of their work.

    After the Dot.Com meltdown, I fished about for a new career. I sold toys at the Atomic Energy Museum; I subbed in middle schools; I guarded buildings and concerts. When I decided to complete the four-year degree I never needed before, I went into criminology. My first class toward an associate’s degree was “Ethics for Law Enforcement.” I just completed a master’s in social science. My last class was “Ethics in Physics.” For my doctorate, I am looking for a program that will let me research fraud and misconduct in science and research.

    On the basis of my professional education, I have no trouble condemning this practice as unethical.


    Michael E. Marotta

    May 17, 2010 at 1:04 pm

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