Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Increase your impact 

I write a number of professional papers with co-authors. This helps me learn about economics and about publishing. One story in the latter camp happened when I worked with someone who notoriously footnotes like crazy and always has very long bibliographies. I was writing a paper with him and another guy, and the second fellow wanted to cite a particular paper as a source. "Oh no," the first guy answered. "We've given him enough cites already." I have never counted who I cite.

Another time I got an angry phone call from a relatively famous economist for failing to cite his paper in my bibliography. "But your paper is at best tangential to the point I was making," I said. "Tangential is close enough. You should have cited me." Academics in the social sciences count their SSCI points to see how they're doing. One fellow was depressed that because he shared a last name with a very prolific economist, he would never be able to get noticed.

Bloggers, no doubt, understand this in checking their Technorati and TTLB rankings. The Unknown Professor of Financial Rounds writes that journals are now in on the game by trying to manipulate their impact factors. The WSJ reports (subscriber link):
Conceived 40 years ago, impact factors are essentially a grading system of how important the papers a journal publishes are. "Importance" is measured by how many other papers cite it, indicating that the discoveries, methodologies or insights it describes are advancing science.
It matters financially, because higher-ranked journals can command much more money from research library subscriptions (which can cost $10000 a pop.) So, the Unknown Professor reports, editors of these journals will suggest additional articles to go into the bibliography which just happen to be in the same journal. He tells other stories about how this manipulation occurs.