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Citations in a scientific paper serve many goals, but there are five important goals.While most authors do a good job of providing citations in their scientific papers, some papers are flawed because of missing citations, i.e., not enough citations to fulfill the five goals above.
While this 2007 study looked at papers published from 1981 to 2000, I imagine that the higher levels of online searching and reading today have only increased this multiplying effect.
Differences in self-citation rates are likely only one of many factors contributing to gender disparities in academic careers. Proper citing requires careful consideration of the appropriate goals of citations, aided by a simple ethos: make the paper reader-centric, not author-centric.
Scientific publications are the primary tool for this essential activity of science, and a primary reason for the existence of professional societies like SPIE.
New publications are placed in the context of the communal collection of knowledge through the use of citations, defined as a reference to a source of information or data.
Could it be that even modest differences in self-citation rates might snowball into noticeable differences in total citations?
In other words, does self-promotion through self-citation work?
Self-cites become a problem only when they are either spurious or biased.
Since deciding that a specific citation is either spurious or biased requires a judgment based on the cited work, the paper in which the citation occurs, and the field within which the work resides, it is not an easy evaluation to make.
Today, such citation counts and their metrification are used in hiring and promotion decisions, especially in academia, often as a substitute for thoughtful and informed judgment.
They also influence research funding strongly in some parts of the world.