Apr 19 2012

564 Motherfucken Citations in One Year?!?!?!

Can someone please explain to me how some fucken astrophysics paper published in February, 2011, was cited 564 times by December, 2011? How is this possible?


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  1. 1

    Are you studying distant objects? Then you need to convert a redshift into a distance, and you have little choice but to cite this paper for the latest and greatest cosmological parameters. Are you doing cosmology? You’re going to cite it, too.

    Another example: suppose you’re observing objects outside the Milky Way, and want to correct for the dust that’s obscuring your view. There is a standard paper with dust maps, and you’re stuck citing it. Bingo: 7000+ citations (2 of them from me).

  2. 2

    Oh, and you’re way behind with 564 citations. The 7 year WMAP paper currently has over 2300.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    Oh, journal citations.

    I thought physioproffe was talkeing about his driveing.

  4. 4
    Daniel Schealler

    I cited E. Komatsu, et al. before it was cool.


    (Note: I am not in fact a scientist)

  5. 5
    Tyrant of Skepsis

    Yes I can explain a bit why that is.
    The WMAP was up until the launch of the Planck satellite the main Observatory of the Cosmic Microwave Background, i.e. the light that decoupled from dense matter 14 billion years ago at the instant the cosmos cooled below 3000 degrees and became transparent. That’s why the CMB is the central tool for learning about the structure of the cosmos directly after the Big Bang.
    So, it can be said that these measurements are the single most important result in observational cosmology, period. Every cosmology paper on the planet has to cite them, because they give the state-of-the-art numbers on Dark Matter vs Dark Energy density and info about the initial state after the Big Bang which is only available there.

  6. 6

    crack in the time/space continuum?

  7. 7

    CPP is confused because it easily takes 7 months to a year to publish a paper in biomedical sciences. Not to mention the years of work that can go into a single manuscript. As a biomedical scientist myself, I also find this citation rate intriguing. Is the time to publication in the astrophysics field much shorter? If so, how do they do it? Who reviews the papers and where can we find these superhero editors that can produce such a quick turn-around time?

  8. 8

    Astrophysicists publish papers as “preprints” on the arXiv (arxiv.org). There’s a light editorial review process but no peer review. So as soon as the paper is done, it’s available for reading and citing. Quality control is by word-of-mouth, I guess, and also authorial pride (no one wants to submit crap).

    I think they also often submit to journals at about the same time as uploading to the arXiv, but I suppose that’s mainly to satisfy academic committees.

    Most of the fields of physics and math operate this way now.

    I’m not an astrophysicist, so if there’s one reading, let me know if I’m wrong.

  9. 9

    If you Google search that paper you’ll find its arXiv location.

    It was actually “published” to the arXiv in 2010, but didn’t appear in a journal until 2012. It has near 2000 citations since appearing on the arXiv.

  10. 10

    However do you physicists cope without pay-wall journals to “add value” to your research before others can read about it? Anyone would think the printing press was becoming redundant.

  11. 11

    Ahem, motherfuckerre,

    I see pay backs are a bitch.

  12. 12

    I may have set a record of a different sort. One of my papers was cited before it was even published. (submission date of citer < pub date on paper.)

  13. 13
    David Marjanović

    I may have set a record of a different sort. One of my papers was cited before it was even published. (submission date of citer < pub date on paper.)

    Hasn’t happened to me yet, but citing papers that are in press is fairly common; usually it’s your own papers, which you know are in press, but sometimes colleagues let you cite their forthcoming research.

  14. 14

    The reason astronomers have so many citations has nothing to do with unrefereed preprints. The reason is that astronomers write lots of papers.

    Basically all papers are posted as preprints to arXiv either when they are submitted or accepted by a journal, so the “official” delay time in publication from acceptance to publication is irrelevant.

    That means the relevant timescale is time to acceptance; in my experience, this is usually 3-4 months, with a long tail.

    Most astronomy papers are published in four journals and most submitted papers are accepted. Importance of the result is not generally a criterion for acceptance. The principal criterion is whether or not the referee (just one usually) thinks the analysis was done correctly. Therefore many papers have limited or minimal results.

    It is very common for postdocs applying for faculty jobs to have 50-100 publications, with 10-20 of those first author.

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