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Nature investigates how many papers really end up without a single citation

The science that’s never been cited – [but may be viewed and downloaded] “…To get a better handle on this dark and forgotten corner of published research, Nature dug into the figures to find out how many papers actually do go uncited (the methods are available in the Supplementary information). It is impossible to know for sure, because citation databases are incomplete. But it’s clear that, at least for the core group of 12,000 or so journals in the Web of Science — a large database owned by Clarivate Analytics in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania — zero-citation papers are much less prevalent than is widely believed. Web of Science records suggest that fewer than 10% of scientific articles are likely to remain uncited. But the true figure is probably even lower, because large numbers of papers that the database records as uncited have actually been cited somewhere by someone. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is less low-quality research to worry about: thousands of journals aren’t indexed by the Web of Science, and concerns that scientists pad out their CVs with pointless papers remain very real. But the new figures may reassure those dismayed by reports of oceans of neglected work. And a closer look at some uncited papers shows that they have use — and are read — despite having apparently been ignored. “Lack of citation cannot be interpreted as meaning articles are useless or valueless,” says David Pendlebury, a senior citations analyst at Clarivate…”

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