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The internet makes me impatient November 17, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, research.
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I really, really needed to get ahold of a book.  I looked at all three libraries I have access to.  One has a hard copy, but it’s a couple hours away so getting it would be tough (to say the least).  The second library said it was available online, but apparently the institutional subscription doesn’t cover that book.  The price of buying it is $15/chapter.  The other library had no idea what I was talking about.

I went onto Amazon to check if a digital copy was there.  It’s not.  It’s an older book and so there isn’t a kindle version.

I finally gave up and bought a copy of the book, but it won’t be here until Wednesday.

Part of me is very annoyed I have to wait that long for a book.  Another part of me remembers only 10 or 15 years ago when I would have to order journal articles through interlibrary loan and they sometimes took a couple weeks to show up.  I would be waiting for a day or two, but then I’d end up working on something else that I found distracting.  It kept me going for a while, but then I would realize I was stuck without the paper, at which point I’d start getting irritated again.

I think I’m getting more impatient as I get older, though.  As you can see from the graph below, it’s a straight shot upward.



This scares me because my kids are already used to the situation where books are instantly available or they only have two wait a day or two to receive something.  What are they going to be like as adults?!

Or worse yet…what will I be like in another 15 years?


Indices of usefulness May 28, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research.
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While tootling around on IEEE Explore, I noticed the metrics tab on many of the articles.  I’d never really looked at it before.  (I’d seen it was there, but never paid much heed.)  I clicked on it and thought,

OMG!  Someone looked at my paper!

That was kind of cool.  I wasn’t sure if that meant that someone just looked at the online page that includes the abstract or read the actual paper.  According to IEEE, “Usage includes PDF downloads and HTML Views.”  Awesome.

Except I noticed something rather disturbing.  I have one paper that has been looked at over 200 times, but hasn’t been cited once.  On the other hand, I have another paper that has a fraction of the views but has been cited several times.  To be perfectly honest, I consider the first paper to be far better than the second one.  Then there’s a third one with several more citations than any of my other papers but barely has been looked at.  And I consider this paper rather…Ugh.

This left me pondering: why do some papers get cited while others don’t.  I don’t think quality is the issue because, as I mentioned, the papers that are cited more are ones that I consider to be some of my less favorite papers.  I don’t think innovation is an issue, either (although for some people it is).

I have noticed that papers with co-authors who travel a lot to conferences get more citations than other, better papers (although these papers are usually cited as examples of particular applications and not so much for foundational material).  And conference papers seem to be cited more than journal papers.  Going on that, I’m starting to wonder how much of citation (at least in my field) tends to be more of an issue of looking for certain authors (particularly ones they’ve seen at conferences) versus doing an in-depth lit review.

Given how I don’t like to travel a whole lot, this does not bode well.  It’s also a bit disconcerting to think that the only thing that matters is actual citations when an uncited work could actually be having a bigger impact and wider readership than a cited work.

senseless self-citation April 28, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, science, work.
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When reviewing papers, I’ve tried to make a point of checking to see if the authors are heavily into self-citation.  I remember realizing how bad the practice was when I was asked to review a paper with a significant number of citations and realized that 90% of them were self-referential.

Self-citing one’s work isn’t inherently a bad thing, particularly if your sub-field is extremely small and you’ve done a significant amount of work in that field.  In that situation, it’s important to point out relevant work, not so much in the sense of, “this was what I did before,” but, “this previous work is relevant to the discussion.”  However, not everyone self-cites that way.  In some cases, someone will self-cite as much of their previous work as possible to get their h-index up.  It may not make sense to do that in certain field, but in some sub-fields of engineering, as well as some other fields, it really can make a huge difference for an early-career professor…particularly if the practice of publishing a bunch of LPUs full of self-citations is the modus operandi.

Beyond that, the practice just really bothers me as it doesn’t make sense.  If you’re in a TT position, it seems like what you’d want to do is cite broadly.  It helps ensure that you have a strong background in the field and that you have a good sense of what other people are doing.  It helps to make comparisons about how your work is unique.  Most importantly, though, it helps other authors realize you exist and will hopefully make them curious about your work.

Finally, someone may be flattered that you cited their work.  I recently had someone comment to me that they were glad someone read their paper other than the editors…and lead author.

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