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Scientometrics. 2010 Mar;82(3):517-537. Epub 2010 Feb 17.

Self-citations at the meso and individual levels: effects of different calculation methods.

Abstract

This paper focuses on the study of self-citations at the meso and micro (individual) levels, on the basis of an analysis of the production (1994-2004) of individual researchers working at the Spanish CSIC in the areas of Biology and Biomedicine and Material Sciences. Two different types of self-citations are described: author self-citations (citations received from the author him/herself) and co-author self-citations (citations received from the researchers' co-authors but without his/her participation). Self-citations do not play a decisive role in the high citation scores of documents either at the individual or at the meso level, which are mainly due to external citations. At micro-level, the percentage of self-citations does not change by professional rank or age, but differences in the relative weight of author and co-author self-citations have been found. The percentage of co-author self-citations tends to decrease with age and professional rank while the percentage of author self-citations shows the opposite trend. Suppressing author self-citations from citation counts to prevent overblown self-citation practices may result in a higher reduction of citation numbers of old scientists and, particularly, of those in the highest categories. Author and co-author self-citations provide valuable information on the scientific communication process, but external citations are the most relevant for evaluative purposes. As a final recommendation, studies considering self-citations at the individual level should make clear whether author or total self-citations are used as these can affect researchers differently.

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