Limits...
It's the data!

Botstein D - Mol. Biol. Cell (2010)

Bottom Line: I believe the answer lies in the unusual nature of these articles: each presents and summarizes gene expression data for nearly every gene in the yeast or human genomes.Continuing interest in the data themselves by cell biologists, rather than results or conclusions drawn by the authors, best accounts for the citation history.The flatness of the numbers of citations over time, the continuing high rate of accesses to individual Web sites set up to allow searching and display of the underlying data, and the large fraction of citations in journals focused on mathematics and computation all support the same conclusion: it's the data.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. botstein@princeton.edu

ABSTRACT
Three articles from the early years of Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC) have had remarkably many citations in the literature since their publication approximately 10 years ago. As a coauthor of these articles and the former editor of MBoC, I was asked for possible explanations. I believe the answer lies in the unusual nature of these articles: each presents and summarizes gene expression data for nearly every gene in the yeast or human genomes. Continuing interest in the data themselves by cell biologists, rather than results or conclusions drawn by the authors, best accounts for the citation history. The flatness of the numbers of citations over time, the continuing high rate of accesses to individual Web sites set up to allow searching and display of the underlying data, and the large fraction of citations in journals focused on mathematics and computation all support the same conclusion: it's the data.

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The citation history of three articles from the early years of MBoC. Source: ISI database.
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Figure 1: The citation history of three articles from the early years of MBoC. Source: ISI database.

Mentions: Citations to our three articles have an interesting and unusual property: they are minimally dependent on what our group intended to study, and indeed they only rarely refer to the results and conclusions of our article. Figure 1 shows that the citation history is remarkably flat over time, with citations continuing at a high rate year after year. Usage of the supplementary tables and the companion Web sites (assessed independently from the server logs) is similarly high and flat. To me, these observations are a strong indication that the citation rate is driven by the uses readers make of the data themselves. If results and conclusions were responsible for the citations, I would have anticipated that number of citations would rise over the years as the results and conclusions become accepted and then would fall as they appear in reviews and texts and ultimately become common knowledge taken for granted. They certainly would not be expected to increase every year, a decade later. If our articles were being cited for results and conclusions, searches of the data in the databases would be expected to fall in frequency much earlier than citations to the article. Only if, as I believe, the interest in our work is for the data themselves would the citations increase and the database accesses continue in parallel.


It's the data!

Botstein D - Mol. Biol. Cell (2010)

The citation history of three articles from the early years of MBoC. Source: ISI database.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2801718&req=5

Figure 1: The citation history of three articles from the early years of MBoC. Source: ISI database.
Mentions: Citations to our three articles have an interesting and unusual property: they are minimally dependent on what our group intended to study, and indeed they only rarely refer to the results and conclusions of our article. Figure 1 shows that the citation history is remarkably flat over time, with citations continuing at a high rate year after year. Usage of the supplementary tables and the companion Web sites (assessed independently from the server logs) is similarly high and flat. To me, these observations are a strong indication that the citation rate is driven by the uses readers make of the data themselves. If results and conclusions were responsible for the citations, I would have anticipated that number of citations would rise over the years as the results and conclusions become accepted and then would fall as they appear in reviews and texts and ultimately become common knowledge taken for granted. They certainly would not be expected to increase every year, a decade later. If our articles were being cited for results and conclusions, searches of the data in the databases would be expected to fall in frequency much earlier than citations to the article. Only if, as I believe, the interest in our work is for the data themselves would the citations increase and the database accesses continue in parallel.

Bottom Line: I believe the answer lies in the unusual nature of these articles: each presents and summarizes gene expression data for nearly every gene in the yeast or human genomes.Continuing interest in the data themselves by cell biologists, rather than results or conclusions drawn by the authors, best accounts for the citation history.The flatness of the numbers of citations over time, the continuing high rate of accesses to individual Web sites set up to allow searching and display of the underlying data, and the large fraction of citations in journals focused on mathematics and computation all support the same conclusion: it's the data.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA. botstein@princeton.edu

ABSTRACT
Three articles from the early years of Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC) have had remarkably many citations in the literature since their publication approximately 10 years ago. As a coauthor of these articles and the former editor of MBoC, I was asked for possible explanations. I believe the answer lies in the unusual nature of these articles: each presents and summarizes gene expression data for nearly every gene in the yeast or human genomes. Continuing interest in the data themselves by cell biologists, rather than results or conclusions drawn by the authors, best accounts for the citation history. The flatness of the numbers of citations over time, the continuing high rate of accesses to individual Web sites set up to allow searching and display of the underlying data, and the large fraction of citations in journals focused on mathematics and computation all support the same conclusion: it's the data.

Show MeSH