Citation and influence: science versus the blogosphere

If you're interested in natural language processing, the blog offers up interesting nuggets. Here was yesterday's entry:

You can look at the data from Twenty Years of Citation Superstars in two ways:

We're only partly joking.

[ - the natural language processing portal: Do you read much, or just cite a lot about it? ]

The citation accounting that tracks the flow of influence in scientific disciplines looks a lot like the citation accounting that goes on in the blogosphere. But in truth, for many if not most scientific disciplines, that resemblance is superficial. Consider the "citation superstars" report mentioned in the above item from fieldmethods. The source is the Thomson ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) Web of science, one of a family of information products that includes ISI Essential Science Indicators and its editorial (i.e. marketing) companion, in-cites.

Each month, in-cites highlights influential scientists, journals, institutions, and papers. Here, for example, are the highlighted papers for 2003. This one caught my eye:

Dr. Rob Morgan and Dr. Shelby Hunt talk about their highly cited paper, "The commitment-trust theory of relationship marketing," (J. Marketing 58[3]: 20-38, July 1994). According to the ISI Essential Science Indicators Web product, this paper, which has been cited a total of 394 times to date, is currently ranked at #1 among papers published in the past decade in the field of Economics & Business. Overall, Dr. Morgan's record includes seven papers cited a total of 538 times to date and Dr. Hunt's record includes 21 papers cited 641 times to date. [read] [in-cites - 2003 Papers Menu]

Given my interest in collaboration and social networking, I was curious to take a look at this influential paper. But how? It took a fair amount of persistent noodling around on the ISI site, and parallel use of Google, to correlate J. Marketing with the American Marketing Association -- which was fruitless, since the available content is only abstracts, and even those only go back to 2002.

Surely, I thought, Google can tell us more about Drs. Morgan and Hunt. Interestingly, the first two Google hits are the pages I've already cited: their profile on in-cites, and the interview linked from the profile. And amusingly, the third hit is this faculty and staff news page at the University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration. Evidently at one time, though no longer recorded even in Google's cache, that page included the fragment:

...Dr. Rob Morgan, Co-Author of the Most Often Cited Business Research Article of ...

Odd, isn't it? I've written before about how citation of accessible primary sources is a core value of the blogging culture. In certain scientific disciplines, that's becoming true as well. In response to my recent item on Apple's Knowledge Navigator, Claus Dahl, who blogs at Notes from Classy's Kitchen, wrote to say:

For scientific citations, NEC's CiteSeer is way ahead of Google at and actually not too far from the scenario you referenced (Dr. Flemson/Fleming).

That's true for the computer-science-related disciplines tracked by CiteSeer. Likewise, the e-print archive is a phenomenal resource for physics, math, computer science, and related fields. As CiteSeer's Steve Lawrence notes:

Articles freely available online are more highly cited. For greater impact and faster scientific progress, authors and publishers should aim to make research easy to access. [CiteSeer: Online or invisible?]
Beyond the computer-science-related disciplines, though, it's unclear to me how much scientific content is becoming freely available online, and therefore able to benefit from the powerful knowledge-transmission and reputation-building forces at work in the blogosphere.

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