Self-citation is the hallmark of productive authors, of any gender

Shubhanshu Mishra, Brent D. Fegley, Jana Diesner, Vetle I. Torvik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It was recently reported that men self-cite >50% more often than women across a wide variety of disciplines in the bibliographic database JSTOR. Here, we replicate this finding in a sample of 1.6 million papers from Author-ity, a version of PubMed with computationally disambiguated author names. More importantly, we show that the gender effect largely disappears when accounting for prior publication count in a multidimensional statistical model. Gender has the weakest effect on the probability of self-citation among an extensive set of features tested, including byline position, affiliation, ethnicity, collaboration size, time lag, subject-matter novelty, reference/citation counts, publication type, language, and venue. We find that self-citation is the hallmark of productive authors, of any gender, who cite their novel journal publications early and in similar venues, and more often cross citation-barriers such as language and indexing. As a result, papers by authors with short, disrupted, or diverse careers miss out on the initial boost in visibility gained from self-citations. Our data further suggest that this disproportionately affects women because of attrition and not because of disciplinary under-specialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0195773
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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