If a Man Writes an Academic Paper But Doesn’t Cite Himself, Does the Paper Even Exist?

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A new study that looked at over 1.5 million research papers within the JSTOR academic database of papers and books found that male academics, when using citations in their papers to point to the accuracy of their arguments, cited themselves at a much higher rate than women did.

The study, authored by two women and three men, found that from 1799 to 2011 (the range during which JSTOR has been archiving these academic papers) men cited their own papers and research 56 percent more than women did. Even more striking, it’s only getting worse: Over the last 20 years, men have been citing themselves at a rate of 70 percent more than female academics. Via the Washington Post:

This self-citation gap held true across every major academic field the authors studied, including biology, sociology, philosophy and law. In a footnote, the paper’s authors — three women and two men — dryly note that the pattern holds among themselves as well: “The men authors of this paper cite themselves at nearly three times the average rate of the women authors.”

Molly M. King, one of the authors of the paper from Stanford University, posits that, “Gendered perceptions of self-promotion likely influence perceptions of self-citation, which could be viewed as a form of self-promotion in the academic workplace.” When a scholar’s name and papers are cited at a higher rate, they are more likely to be considered for tenure and are seen as more favorable in academic hiring processes. As the old saying goes, you’re damned if you lean in, damned if you lean out.

Male Academics Love to Cite Themselves