Scholarly Publishing Round-up July 2017: Citations and Metrics

The influence of a five-sentence letter, a review of author profiles in databases, a plea for objective metrics, and article title characteristics are among the topics of the Round-up for July 2017.

An interesting study of citations to a five-sentence letter published in 1980 (Porter J, Jick H. Addiction rare in patients treated with narcotics. N Engl J Med. 1980 Jan 10;302(2):123), was recently published in the NEJM. The authors analyzed the citations received for the letter and categorized the citations into eight categories: affirmational, negational, contrastive, persuasive, assumptive, perfunctory, methodological, and conceptual. The findings:

In conclusion, we found that a five-sentence letter published in the Journal in 1980 was heavily and uncritically cited as evidence that addiction was rare with long-term opioid therapy. We believe that this citation pattern contributed to the North American opioid crisis by helping to shape a narrative that allayed prescribers’ concerns about the risk of addiction associated with long-term opioid therapy. Our findings highlight the potential consequences of inaccurate citation and underscore the need for diligence when citing previously published studies.

Leung PTM, et al. A 1980 Letter on the Risk of Opioid Addiction. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 1;376(22):2194-2195.

The NEJM updated the Addiction rare in patients treated with narcotics letter with an Editor’s Note:

NEJM note



A recent commentary published in the NEJM includes a discussion of four databases: PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar, and inconsistencies in academic productivity metrics for the same author.  Among the recommendations for authors are:

  • Create and maintain a Google Scholar profile.
  • Review your Scopus author name profile for accuracy.
  • Include your ORCID iD in manuscript submissions.

Plana NM,et al. Variations in databases used to assess academic output and citation impact. N Engl J Med. 2017 Jun 22;376(25):2489-2491.

See: Establishing Your Author Profile for guidance on Google Scholar, checking your Scopus profile and ORCID.


Another commentary was published in Nature.  The commentary stressed the need for objective metrics and the use of quantitative and qualitative metrics by researchers, funders, reviewers, editors and universities.

Science panels still rely on poor proxies to judge quality and impact. That results in risk-averse research, say Paula Stephan, Reinhilde Veugelers and Jian Wang.

Reviewers are blinkered by bibliometrics.  Stephan P, Veugelers R, Wang J. Nature. 2017 Apr 26;544(7651):411-412.


What influence do article title characteristics have on citations? A study of article titles published in three radiology journals and their characteristics was recently published. The authors’ findings:

In summary, the title characteristics of number of words, presence of a colon symbol, and presence of an acronym are associated with higher citation numbers in AJNR, AJR, and Radiology. Authors and editors may wish to consider title formulation and its possible effects with increasing scrutiny to potentially maximize their articles׳ citations.

Chokshi FH, et al. Bibliometric analysis of manuscript title characteristics associated with higher citation numbers: A comparison of three major radiology journals, AJNR, AJR, and Radiology. Curr Probl Diagn Radiol. 2016 Nov – Dec;45(6):356-360.


Other studies of article title characteristics include the use of proper names, abbreviations, country names, use of verbs, the syntax of a title (descriptive, interrogative or declarative), to name a few. A summary of some studies are found in: Milojevic S. The length and semantic structure of article titles—evolving disciplinary practices and correlations with impact. Front. Res. Metr. Anal.,06 April 2017,


Clarivate Analytics released the 2016 Journal Impact Factor rankings available from Journal Citation Reports (JCR).

The 2017 JCR release, which represents 2016 citation data for literature within the sciences and social sciences, features 11,459 journal listings in 236 disciplines with 81 countries represented. A total of 132 journals received their first JIF in this report; 66% of journals saw a year-over-year increase in their JIF and 33% saw a decrease. These high-impact journals are at the heart of the Web of Science, the most comprehensive network of citations of over 33,000 journals.

World's most influential journals for 2017 unveiled in the Journal Citation Reports from Clarivate Analytics. June 14, 2017.

How to Use the Journal Impact Factor Wisely


Clarivate Analytics also announced new changes to the Web of Science interface including a new citation report format. See: What’s New in Web of Science for more information.