Research Press Release

Sociology: Citation bias towards scientific research from certain countries identified

Nature Human Behaviour

May 31, 2022

Scientific papers from researchers in a small number of highly active countries are more likely to be cited, according to a paper published in Nature Human Behaviour. These findings suggest that there is a citation bias in science that could mean that globally diverse voices are less likely to be heard and recognized.

Scientific papers use citations to acknowledge previous works that have informed the research, which are compiled into a list of references. A paper that has been included on many reference lists is said to be highly cited.

Charles Gomez and colleagues examined the text and citations of nearly 20 million scientific papers across 150 fields, published between 1980 and 2012. The authors develop a measure that captures the difference between the number of citations that would be expected for a paper based on the text contained within it, and the actual number of citations the paper received. A small number of countries (such as the USA, UK and China) were found to be at the core of scientific research, with the USA being the most prominent country across all fields. In other words, papers from scientists in this core group were more likely to be cited than those from other countries (for example Brazil, Mexico and Turkey), even if they covered similar subject matters. The authors found that this gap between over- and under-cited countries grew over time.

The authors conclude that research papers from some countries are systematically overlooked in scientific research. Consequently, knowledge from these countries is not incorporated into global science, which they argue may impede global scientific growth.


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