From The Washington Post:
A fascinating new working paper finds that men are far more likely than women to back up their arguments with appeals to a higher authority: themselves.
When an academic writes a research paper, it’s common practice to give citations for various facts and assertions. It isn’t enough, for instance, to simply assert that “the global rise of the hyperdiverse ant genus Pheidole is an evolutionary epic with many subplots.” You need to cite biologist Corrie S. Moreau’s 2008 paper on “Unraveling the evolutionary history of the hyperdiverse ant genus Pheidole” to make that argument.
In academia, article citations like these are a marker of authority and influence: If your work gets cited by others hundreds of times, that’s a good indicator that you’re making a mark on your field. Universities often factor in citation counts when making decisions about hiring, tenure and pay.
As it turns out, academics have a handy tool at their disposal for juicing their citation counts: They cite themselves. There’s nothing inherently shady about this practice. If you’re an expert in a relatively obscure field like ant taxonomy, you’re probably going to need to cite your previous work because there aren’t a whole lot of other people doing similar work.
So Molly M. King and colleagues at Stanford, the University of Washington, and New York University set out to find how often this so-called “self-citation” happens. They did so by examining a massive database of academic work: 1.5 million research papers in JSTOR, a digital library of academic books and papers published between 1779 and 2011.
What they found, first of all, is that self-citation represents a significant chunk all academic citations. There were 8.2 million citations contained in the …