10 August 2009

Using the interlocking web of citations you can see how this happened. A small number of review papers funneled large amounts of traffic through the network, with 63% of all citation paths flowing through one review paper, and 95% of all citation paths flowed through just 4 review papers by the same research group. These papers acted like a lens, collecting and focusing citations on the papers supporting the hypothesis, in testament to the power of a well received review paper.

But Greenberg goes beyond just documenting bias in what research was referenced in each review paper. By studying the network, in which review papers are themselves cited by future research papers, he showed how these reviews exerted influence beyond their own individual readerships, and distorted the subsequent discourse, by setting a frame around only some papers.

via How myths are made – Bad Science.

A post related to this one: Published Scientific Articles Not Written By Scientists and referencing the study How citation distortions create unfounded authority: analysis of a citation network.

I knew that the proper methodology is not to rely on review articles, except maybe to find references, but I had not realized how much influence they seem to have. This is astonishing and hopefully will encourage a more cautious approach to using review articles.

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