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PLoS One. 2018 Sep 26;13(9):e0195773. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0195773. eCollection 2018.

Self-citation is the hallmark of productive authors, of any gender.

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School of Information Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL 61820, United States of America.
Illinois Informatics Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, United States of America.


It was recently reported that men self-cite >50% more often than women across a wide variety of disciplines in the bibliographic database JSTOR. Here, we replicate this finding in a sample of 1.6 million papers from Author-ity, a version of PubMed with computationally disambiguated author names. More importantly, we show that the gender effect largely disappears when accounting for prior publication count in a multidimensional statistical model. Gender has the weakest effect on the probability of self-citation among an extensive set of features tested, including byline position, affiliation, ethnicity, collaboration size, time lag, subject-matter novelty, reference/citation counts, publication type, language, and venue. We find that self-citation is the hallmark of productive authors, of any gender, who cite their novel journal publications early and in similar venues, and more often cross citation-barriers such as language and indexing. As a result, papers by authors with short, disrupted, or diverse careers miss out on the initial boost in visibility gained from self-citations. Our data further suggest that this disproportionately affects women because of attrition and not because of disciplinary under-specialization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

I have read the journal’s policy and the authors of this manuscript have the following competing interests: Vetle Torvik is a co-inventor of the Author-ity dataset, which is subject to licensing to third-parties (for non-academic or for-profit use) by the University of Illinois, which owns this intellectual property. However, the Author-ity dataset is provided free-of-charge for non-profit academic research. This does not alter the authors’ adherence to all the PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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