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Citations Are Not Just for Ranking Agencies and Administrators

It's time to unlock the true power of citations.

Wed Oct 27 2021

Citation, Journal Impact Factor, H-Index, Eigenfactor, Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP), Citescore, SCImago Journal Rank, Recent Citation, REF, University Rankings. These are all terms that you might have come across or heard at some point. Some might make you cringe, some you might love.

At the heart of all these phrases is the practice of counting citations in different ways, the predominant use case for citations for the past 50+ years. But citations are much more than just a number to be counted. They are a wealth of information, a network, and a record preserved across time, research disciplines, and space.

At scite, we aim to change citations from a superficial metric that we glance at to a conversation that can educate and inform readers. We want to change the conversation from “how many times has that article been cited?” to “how has that article been cited?” The nuance there is that citations provide contextual information about research, and researchers can use it for much more than rankings; we just need to unlock it.

We’re doing that by text mining the full text of millions of research articles to extract the citation statement and citation context, allowing anyone using scite to see what a citation says, not just that a citation exists.

smart citation example

Example of a Smart Citation from the paper "Quantitative Proteomic and phosphoric..." which indicates supporting evidence for claims made by Nicholson, et al. 2015.

This new way of looking at citations, which we often call next-generation citations or “Smart Citations,” has opened up new use cases beyond traditional bibliometrics and citation counting.

Indeed, we have been pleasantly surprised that our fastest growing group of users is students, including undergraduate students and high schoolers (see how students can use scite for their coursework), which is certainly not the case for traditional citation indices. Some students have gone so far to create viral TikTok videos reaching over 445k views! The reason students are using scite is because citation statements provide a better understanding and a better interpretation of research, which helps them see not just if a paper has been supported or contrasted but how it has been discussed and what other researchers say about it.

Another use case emerging from our unique dataset is the ability to look at citation statements as expert insights or opinions. With our Citation Statement Search, scite users can now search over 918M citation statements extracted from 27M full-text articles. This allows users the ability to see what experts say about virtually any topic, from how Peppa Pig influences your children’s social development to what adverse effects have been documented for Avastin, and much more. Combined with our alerts on these searches, the relevant parts of the scientific conversation between experts can come straight to your inbox.

As we continue to ingest more articles from publisher partnerships, the ability to understand research across all disciplines will become easier through scite. In a world where misinformation is ripe and the volume of research enormous, it’s time to move beyond simply counting citations. It’s time to look at the conversation amongst papers.

It’s time for scite.