It’s *nice* to get ignored again and again and again – NOT!

I’ll not give an example today (but I may in the future, if I get the feeling that malice is involved), but there have been cases where my research gets ignored by researchers with whom I have extensively discussed it – i.e., they approached me at SVP or other opportunities to talk about it.

This pisses me off, and this has now led to a Black List I am keeping. I won’t review papers or grant applications by them (as I fear I would not be impartial), and I certainly won’t go out of my way to cite their publications. In fact, I will actively look for alternatives to cite, if needs be.


Because citations are our currency and our credentials in science. It doesn’t matter how good someone’s work is, it doesn’t matter how highly regarded she or he is. If your papers don’t get cited, you’re going down the drain. Funding agencies and hiring committees count them. There’s various services that do the counting, and although some do it very badly indeed, many people who will make important decisions about my future as a palaeontologist look at these services’ record of my publications.

And this is true of all researchers, which is why I try to make sure I cite the relevant papers of people who help me. No, I won’t add gratuitous citations just to bolster someone’s index. But if something is highly relevant, I’ll cite it, and if I have a choice of what to use as an example, I’ll pick the example by the person who helped me.

The past three weeks have seen two papers published where one of my papers should really have been cited each. Also, there is a paper in review somewhere (no, I won’t say if I am one of the reviewers) that has findings exactly parallel to those of one of my papers, just for a different taxon – and my work is not cited. Three strikes in as many weeks – I am most definitely not amused.

So, if you chat me up at SVP, pick my brain about a topic, then turn around and publish a paper citing dozens of papers, but ignore the one you talked to me about, be prepared to have just made my shit list.





About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
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13 Responses to It’s *nice* to get ignored again and again and again – NOT!

  1. David Hone says:

    I’ve never experienced that bad (fortunately), but I can certainly point to a number of papers that really should have cited my papers given how little work there was in the areas in question and there’s been a couple where at least one of the authors knew about my work. I don’t think there was anything malicious in any of these cases, but there must have been laziness at least and quite possibly incompetence. Either way, as you say, it’s not fun.

    • David Hone says:

      I should have added of course that people often miss things entirely accidentally and I think people are generally quite forgiving (if annoyed) when they don’t get cited. But as Heinrich says, there are times when you know the authors know about your work and it’s obviously directly relevant to the paper in hand, it’s hard to fathom how you could be overlooked without coming to a fairly negative conclusion about it.

      • Yep – I’ve been guilty of overlooking papers, and in one case I even made a copy of a paper (yes, that long ago), put it into the binder with the lit for the paper I was writing – and ended up not citing it. Leon Claessen has every right to be unhappy about that!
        But – it was entirely unintentional. And that’s the opposite of what my post was about.

        As I said on Twitter, I hope this was oversight or word limit at play. In one case, however, I can’t quite make that nagging voice going away that’s whispering in my ear: “revenge, revenge, revenge for that review!”

  2. Craig Dylke says:

    The joys of politics… The political scientist in me is seeing this creditation issus as a form of power play and authority exchange. Its too bad science has been reduced to the point (by management) where citations matter in one’s career. As you fear, there is great potential for them to become simple tools of pity human emotion and motives. Obviously citations should really be just tracking the flow and expansion of ideas.

    That would be an interesting study in academia, how citation exchanges effects the interactions and careers of researchers, espeically when they are wielded as political tools and not what they should be…

    Sorry to hear you might be the victim of this 😦

    • well, I do hope this is not what happened here: that I an the victim of a power play.

      Interestingly, I received two very kind emails by now from colleagues who were worried they might have wronged me. Needless to say, both didn’t!

  3. Pingback: Occasional link roundup returns « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings

  4. It can be malice or just sloppiness, but also a lack of cultural/linguistic knowledge. Only two weeks ago I chanced upon a German-language article about the history of the Tendaguru finds, which astonishingly didn’t even mention Gerhard Maier’s ‘African Dinosaurs Unearthed’, the book about the subject. In this case, I’m convinced the author simply hadn’t read any English-language literature, and I’ve seen many such examples – although many more from the history of science than from paleontology proper, where English is universally accepted as the lingua franca.

    • Language – I would accept that if it wasn’t
      a) a pattern affecting many non-UK/US researchers who publish in English in UK/US journals
      b) it wasn’t – in my case – following personal communication
      c) it wasn’t affecting UK researchers as well, at the hands of their US colleagues (case I witnessed as reviewer).

      • The problem is that it is so difficult to separate sloppiness from malice. The reference that was forgotten, the letter of recommendation that was sent just a day too late and the review report that turned out a bit too negative to award the grant or publish the paper: much of what we do is based on good faith and integrity, but people being what they are we’re going to be kicked in the face sometimes. I sure have been.

        • Very true 😦
          On the other hand, sometimes people write an honest review that gets misunderstood by the funding agency, for example if they do not know the “terminology code” (e.g., “outstanding” is not good enough, for funding you must be “excellent”).

          • I know already one whole discipline where it was decided to adopt ‘outstanding’ for everything that is even vaguely acceptable and restrict discussion to other media – thereby making the whole process essentially meaningless, but gaining an advantage in getting funds over other disciplines that don’t have the same cohesive approach.

          • David Marjanović says:

            e.g., “outstanding” is not good enough, for funding you must be “excellent”

            …which is literally the same thing in Latin. Argh.

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