My thousands of missing citations

academic creditAre you getting credit for all the citations of your work? Maybe not.

Thousands of citations of my papers in reputable peer-reviewed journals do not count in the official tabulations of citations provided by Thomson/Reuters Web of Science–formerly ISI Web of Knowledge and many people still call it ISI Web of Science.

The journals  were just too new when I published these papers. When Web of Science belatedly recognizes a journal as worthy of being followed and indexed – and therefore the articles appearing in it getting countable citations – the designation is not retroactive. This is arbitrary and causes problems for authors as well as anyone doing literature searches. And it is just another reason to not give unwarranted credibility to the accuracy of Web of Science.

You should be alert to this problem, especially if it can adversely affect an evaluation of you. You have to be prepared to alert evaluators to the limitations of  Web of Science and the availability of additional information, as from Google Scholar, PubMed, or altmetrics, such as how many times your article is viewed or downloaded.

Don’t get me wrong, I am fed up with the obsession in so many places about authorship, citations, and the brutally meaningless H index. But we often encounter situations where these numbers matter greatly. There can be negative consequences if we ignore inaccuracies in how we are characterized by the unreliable numbers.

Moreover, if citations of some of your papers are not counted in quantification of your performance, it could indicate more serious problems in the ability of people to access these papers in the literature or properly attribute the ideas in them to you.

If citations of particular articles are not being counted in Web of Science, the articles are not accessible to persons using ISI as a search engine . More on that in a bit.

According to Google scholar, my most cited paper is

Kanner, A. D., Coyne, J. C., Schaefer, C., & Lazarus, R. S. (1981). Comparison of two modes of stress measurement: Daily hassles and uplifts versus major life events. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4(1), 1-39.

According to Google scholar, this article had racked up 2583 citations, as of May 1, 2014. But zebranone of these are counted in my citations by Web of Science. The hassles paper was among the first coming out of my being Co-Principal Investigator with Richard Lazarus on the Berkeley Stress and Coping Project. We were attempting to study stress and coping processes in the everyday life of persons living in the community, outside the artificial confines of the laboratory.

For some time, Lazarus had been conducting laboratory studies of stress, induced by exposure to films of bloody automobile and woodshop accidents and Australian circumcision rituals. He had been manipulating what research participants thought they were seeing – their cognitive appraisals – and examining the subsequent behavioral and physiological responses. Along with the work of only a few others like Leonard Pearlin, our project spurred a focus in the larger literature on the stresses of everyday life and on how coping could modify their effects of stress on mental and physical health.

Two other of my other most cited articles came from this project and are not counted either.

DeLongis, A., Coyne, J. C., Dakof, G., Folkman, S., & Lazarus, R. S. (1982). Relationship of daily hassles, uplifts, and major life events to health status. Health Psychology, 1(2), 119. (1030 citations as of May 1, 2014)

And

Schaefer, C., Coyne, J. C., & Lazarus, R. S. (1981). The health-related functions of social support. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 4(4), 381-406. (943 citations)

When Lazarus and I and our students first presented our work in symposia at Western Psychological Association and American Psychological Association, editors clamored for us to send our papers to their journals. We certainly had ideas about journals’ prestige, although I do not think that anybody back then was calculating journal citation indices. The obsession with arbitrarily quantified  measures of quality had not yet taken hold. We chose our journals because their content seem to particularly relevant. Given the papers that were appearing in the relatively new Journal of Behavioral Medicine. It seemed an ideal fit. Health Psychology had not yet had a first issue, but it was going to be the official journal of the Division of Health Psychology of APA and in the appearing in the first volume had particular appeal. We figured that its reception was assured.

I  became bored and disillusioned with what was coming out of the Berkeley Stress and Coping project. The Hassles and Uplifts Scales and Ways of Coping Checklist became widely used, but I was not confident that they were getting at what we intended. The widespread, but uncritical use of the scales just goes to show how persuaded researchers can be by the naming of assessment instruments and inhibited from doing any critical thinking whether these instruments actually measure what they intend to be studying.

Furthermore, Lazarus was rigidly individualistic in this emphasis on cognition, not the social environment. I left the project during a gap in funding. A graduate student who did not need financial support took over as co-principal investigator. When it been the Berkeley Stress and Coping Project became known as the Folkman- Lazarus project.

I moved on to the University of Michigan and began studying stress and coping after a heart attack. In initial focus groups with married couples in which one partner had recently had a heart attack, it was obvious how important spouses were to recovery. It seemed to me that Lazarus’ concept of emotion and problem focused coping needed to be supplemented by coping directed towards managing interpersonal relationships. I proposed the concept of relationship focused coping. I had been in conversation about this with Anita DeLongis who had moved to University of British Columbia . She independently developed a similar concept and deserves to share any credit.

My first paper from the Michigan Heart Project was published in an established journal published by the American Psychological Association that is listed in ISI Web of Science. The article went on to be highly cited.

 Coyne, J. C., & Smith, D. A. (1991). Couples coping with a myocardial infarction: a contextual perspective on wives’ distress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(3), 404.

But other papers from the project were published in Journal of Family Psychology, then a relatively new journal of APA’s Division of Family Psychology because I wanted to attract attention of marital and family researchers. These two papers are not indexed in ISI Web of Science, because the journal only later was recognized by ISI Web of Science.

Coyne, J. C., & Smith, D. A. (1994). Couples coping with a myocardial infarction: Contextual perspective on patient self-efficacy. Journal of Family Psychology, 8(1), 43. (186 citations)

And

Fiske, V., Coyne, J. C., & Smith, D. A. (1991). Couples coping with myocardial infarction: An empirical reconsideration of the role of overprotectiveness. Journal of Family Psychology, 5(1), 4. (67 citations)

I think that the junior authors on all of these papers suffered from the papers not being indexed by ISI. They had co-authored influential papers, but their authorship and the influence of these papers was not been registered in the only place that some people – appointment and tenure committees, members of grant review panels – thought mattered. Part of the popularity of Web of Science among administrators is that it gives the illusion that they do not have to think too hard about the quality of scholars or scholarship. All they have to do is check Web of Science.

Of all these five papers, I am most annoyed personally with the absence of the overprotectiveness paper from Web of Science. A lot of the writing on overprotectiveness has its roots in psychoanalytic theory about the bad influence of overprotective mothers on their children’s development. The notion is that overprotectiveness serves the mothers’ unconscious dependency and hostility. As you can read in our paper, this misogynist notion of overprotectiveness lacks any empirical support. But it leads to misconstrual of wives’ appropriate attentiveness to the vulnerability of their husbands after heart attack.

Typically, investigators come up with a scale they call Overprotectiveness and assume that is something negative that spouses, namely wives, do. Many of the items concern spouses doing things for patients, either because the patients cannot do these things themselves or because the spouses expressed support or caring. Think of it: if you get a partner a warm cup of tea  in the morning, should someone infer unconscious hostility and undermining? Particularly with the most common low to moderate scores, what is labeled as overprotectiveness is simply caring and appropriate attentiveness to an ill person A misogyny remains in use of the concept of overprotectiveness in couples research. The review that we included in this article is lost to the literature, but could have served as a corrective.

It is not that these five articles disappeared into oblivion. They can be accessed hrough electronic bibliographies like PsycINFO. But such electronic bibliographies have nowhere near the capacity or the influence of Web of Science.

I do not know how many other authors are disadvantaged by their papers published in quality peer-reviewed journals not being indexed in ISI. It is certainly a problem for authors who publish in peer-reviewed journals in Latin America, where only about 4% of which are indexed in ISI. But it is also a problem for researchers who want to construct the widest and most accurate review of the literature and to properly attribute ideas to their original sources. That is why it is always important to supplement literature searches done with Web of Science with PubMed and particularly Google Scholar. And to get the word out about how arbitrary and incomplete coverage of the published peer-reviewed literature is byWeb of Science.

2 thoughts on “My thousands of missing citations

  1. Your point is well-taken about undercounting in Web of Science. I would note that there are other searches one can do in this engine to get a fuller citation picture. For example, your 1981 piece with Kanner in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows up in Web of Science if one looks for it specifically using the cited reference search option. When I do this, I see that it has been cited 1543 times.

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    • Thanks for your comment, which is well taken. You can indeed get the Kanner article using the cited reference search option, but it takes patience to get there that few people doing searches have, except when they are looking for something specific.

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