Narcissism, OCD, and sloppy writing

It’s pretty well established in my household that I have a kind of low-level obsessive compulsive disorder.  I count the steps in a stairwell, I reorganize dishes in the dishwasher, and I drive Allison crazy in a myriad of other related ways.  One of my more narcissistic obsessions is to check Google Scholar to see whether my papers have been cited recently.  Kind of a yucky thing to do, but I am new enough to this profession to get a kick out of knowing that people read our work and find it worthy of including it in their own.  Lately I’ve begun to wonder whether there is any correlation between our papers being cited and being read, however.  A few examples pulled from papers that cited us:

In the Midwest, for example, cowbird parasitism increased as forest cover increased and in landscapes with relatively less forest, parasitism decreased while songbird productivity increased (Cox et al. 2012).

This is not quite what we said.  Actually, the first clause is exactly wrong – we observed increased parasitism as forest cover declined.

Although the direction of this association was counter to what has generally been found, our study is not the first to find a positive association between habitat amount and nest predation (Cox et al. 2012).

This is from a different paper than the quote above, and is citing a different paper of ours, but again it is exactly wrong.  What we wrote:

 …overall rates of predation were invariant across the gradient of forest cover.

The regression line that showed the relationship between habitat amount and overall predation rates looked like this:


One more:

Because this was a short-term study, we could not expend the effort necessary to color-band a large proportion of breeding pairs, which is the case for most studies of songbird–habitat relationships (e.g., Bonifait et al. 2006, Cooper et al. 2009, Cox and Martin 2009)

This one is really odd.  If I were to hazard a guess I’d say they threw this sentence in to assuage some reviewer remark about not knowing enough about individual birds.   But why not pick a paper to cite that actually does investigate songbird habitat relationships?  The word “habitat” appears  zero times in the body of our manuscript.

I guess my point is this.  You design a study. You somehow find money to pay for the study.  You collect data, which may take years and thousands of dollars.  You put yourself through the horror show that is peer review, rejection, and rewrites.  You do all that!  Why not actually read the papers you cite?  It’s basically the easiest part of the whole process and it’s kind of an important component of good scholarship.

Also, get off my lawn!

P.S.  Any miscitations in my work are solely and exclusively the fault of my coauthors.


3 thoughts on “Narcissism, OCD, and sloppy writing

  1. One doesn’t need to read your paper to know the first citation was wrong. Sheesh. And I’m sorry I haven’t cited you yet. Reviewers keep saying my work is wrong.

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