In the absence of agreed definitions and rigorous enforcement, good practice will continue to depend on personal responsibility, says Ron Iphofen
When does self-citation tip from being a useful way to avoid repetition into a means to artificially inflate your academic status?
We have worked with Ron and we like and respect his work. In this THE piece he reflects on self-citation and that provisions in a code are not the answer. The thorny issue of self-citation needs to be taken on as a research culture challenge, not as a mechanical problem. A great plan that was foiled by the implementation.
So the prospect that Switzerland’s new national code of conduct will officially sanction scholars for “unjustified” self-citation – or claiming authorship despite contributing little to a project – raised my interest, as did suggestions that it could lead to similar initiatives elsewhere.
It is not a bad code. Indeed, it is based on the All European Academies (Allea) principles of reliability, honesty, respect and accountability, so it would be hard to go wrong. Sadly, however, the policy’s small print suggests that relatively few scholars will be dragged across the coals for citation manipulation or gift authorship infraction.