A Small World of Citations? The Influence of Collaboration Networks on Citation Practices

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This paper examines the proximity of authors to those they cite using degrees of separation in a co-author network, essentially using collaboration networks to expand on the notion of self-citations. While the proportion of direct self-citations (including co-authors of both citing and cited papers) is relatively constant in time and across specialties in the natural sciences (10% of references) and the social sciences (20%), the same cannot be said for citations to authors who are members of the co-author network. Differences between fields and trends over time lie not only in the degree of co-authorship which defines the large-scale topology of the collaboration network, but also in the referencing practices within a given discipline, computed by defining a propensity to cite at a given distance within the collaboration network. Overall, there is little tendency to cite those nearby in the collaboration network, excluding direct self-citations. These results are interpreted in terms of small-scale structure, field-specific citation practices, and the value of local co-author networks for the production of knowledge and for the accumulation of symbolic capital. Given the various levels of integration between co-authors, our findings shed light on the question of the availability of ‘arm’s length’ expert reviewers of grant applications and manuscripts.

This content has been updated on June 2nd, 2017 at 11 h 50 min.