Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Encouraging Citation Ethics

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

Encouraging Citation Ethics

Article excerpt

In the previous issue of JIE, I discussed citation ethics, in general, and the ethics of self-citation, in particular. Those two pieces were directed to authors. In this piece, I discuss the role an editor can play in encouraging citation ethics. Why "encouraging"? Why not "enforcing"? Some ethical principles binding on authors, such as many of those governing pseudonymous publication, can indeed be enforced; citation ethics, however, cannot. Here's why. The two most basic principles of citation ethics are to cite sources only when they are truly intended for the reader (and not an authorial display of erudition) or when the author derived some part of his thinking from the sources. Only the author knows his intentions in the former case and the intellectual genesis of his ideas in the latter.

Now, how do I know this? Because I have often suspected authors who have cited my own work for no apparent purpose not only of padding their bibliographies but also of possibly not even reading the piece cited. In a small number of instances, I then discovered from the citing authors' subsequent work just how much of an impact the cited work had had on them. Now, if a cited author cannot tell for certain whether a citation is frivolous, pray tell how can an editor do so? He simply cannot.

An editor can, however, make reasonable surmises-as can a cited author-and then try to encourage best practices. Here are four devices an editor suspecting a significantly padded bibliography can use at his discretion:

First stratagem: For footnotes eliminate the numeration. The editor may require the author to use, say, *, [dagger], [double dagger], §, °, **, etc. This has only one purpose: to deprive the author of any satisfaction he might take in (merely) the number of footnotes.

Second stratagem: In particularly egregious cases, the editor may require the use of * only, so that the author with six notes at the foot of a page will have to live with ****** in press. Always allow the removal of footnotes in proofs or nothing has been accomplished.

Problem regarding the above stratagems: They require the cooperation of the publisher: lots of cooperation. The first reason is because typesetting is made more difficult by this convention, since footnote symbols restart on each page and manuscript pages are not print pages. The second reason is because deletion of footnotes in proofs-what the editor is gently aiming at-means that all other footnotes on the page must be re-symboled, which may or may not be automatically adjustable (as numeration virtually always is). …

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