TitleTerrestrial ecologists ignore aquatic literature: Asymmetry in citation breadth in ecological publications and implications for generality and progress in ecology
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsMenge, B, Chan, F, Dudas, S, Eerkes-Medrano, D, Grorud-Colvert, K, Heiman, K, Hessing-Lewis, M, Iles, A, Milston-Clements, R, Noble, M, Page-Albins, K, Richmond, E, Rilov, G, Rose, J, Tyburczy, J, Vinueza, L, Zarnetske, P
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Type of ArticleJournal Article

The search for generality in ecology should include assessing the influence of studies done in one system on those done in other systems. Assuming generality is reflected in citation patterns, we analyzed frequencies of terrestrial, marine, and freshwater citations in papers categorized as terrestrial, marine and freshwater in high-impact "general" ecological journals. Citation frequencies were strikingly asymmetric. Aquatic researchers cited terrestrial papers similar to 10 times more often than the reverse, implying uneven cross-fertilization of information between aquatic and terrestrial ecologists. Comparisons between citation frequencies in the early 1980s and the early 2000s for two of the seven journals yielded similar results. Summing across all journals, 60% of all research papers (n = 5824) published in these journals in 2002-2006 were terrestrial vs. 9% freshwater and 8% marine. Since total numbers of terrestrial and aquatic ecologists are more similar than these proportions suggest, the representation of publications by habitat in "general" ecological journals appears disproportional and unrepresentative of the ecological science community at large. Such asymmetries are a concern because (1) aquatic and terrestrial systems can be tightly integrated, (2) pressure for across-system understanding to meet the challenge of climate change is increasing, (3) citation asymmetry implies barriers to among-system flow of understanding, thus (4) impeding scientific and societal progress. Changing this imbalance likely depends on a bottom-up approach originating from the ecological community through pressure on societies, journals, editors and reviewers. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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