Survey of theoreticians on how their work is cited by non-theory papers

I just learned that Maria Servedio is conducting an interesting survey of theoreticians in EEB as to whether their theoretical work is correctly cited in empirical papers. See below for details. It’s a very interesting little survey so I encourage you to complete it if it applies to you. I’m told that Maria’s sample so far is dominated by evolutionary theoreticians, and so it would be great to have more ecological theoreticians in the survey so as to enable among-field comparisons.

Here’s Maria’s email:

Dear Theory friends and colleagues, (please pass this on to others if you wish!)

I am writing to ask if you would be willing to participate as a subject in a small analysis that I’m doing as part of an introduction to a symposium issue (to be published in Am Nat).  After I explain, you may find that you are interested in the results that you would find anyway!  The analysis is about the correctness of citations to theoretical studies in non-theoretical studies.  I am looking for each participant to chose one of their theoretical models (“pure” theory, for this purpose, not connected to data) and assess the correctness of 10 citations to it in empirical studies or reviews.
Specifically, I would ask that you do the following:
1) choose the theoretical paper (“pure” theory) of yours that has closest to 40 citations (this is just to not bias towards the best cited, oldest, etc)
2) choose 10 papers towards the middle of those citations (by year) that are not in other theory papers (if you can’t find 10 just include fewer)
3) categorize these as
A) “general to topic” (e.g., they added your paper in a list of other general ones about the evolution of sex, range limits, ecological coexistence, etc).
B) “specific and appropriate” (e.g., they correctly referenced one of your findings in the study)
C) “incorrect” (e.g., they misrepresented what you found, you didn’t make that point in your study, or it’s the wrong topic!)
If you are willing to participate I would list your name as a participant in the analysis in the paper, unless of course you wish to remain anonymous.
I am sure you can gather that I’m asking theoreticians to assess their own papers because who better to gauge, without (or with hopefully very minimal!) error, which category their paper fits best into.
If you are willing/able to participate I would need your data by Sept 23, to  Please let me know ahead time if you plan to participate, so I can be on the lookout for your response.
Best wishes,


3 thoughts on “Survey of theoreticians on how their work is cited by non-theory papers

  1. For the record, I just completed the survey, for Vasseur & Fox 2007 Ecol Letts. Cited incorrectly twice (plus a third borderline incorrect) out of a total of 11 citations in 10 empirical papers. Only a couple of specific and appropriate citations.

    None of which counts a very specific and appropriate citation by the empirical paper Dave Vasseur and I helped write. Want to be cited specifically and accurately? Do it yourself! 🙂 (aside to the self-citation police: that particular self-citation was fully justified in the context of the ms. It was not a gratuitous self-citation Dave and I cynically threw in to boost our citation counts. And no, there’s no other paper we could’ve cited instead.)

  2. How often are theory papers cited in empirical papers? I imagine this depends heavily on the “kind” of theory (i.e. what journals the work is published in, how it is framed, etc). I can see that people like May are well-cited by empirical and theoretical papers across a wide spectrum, but I have no idea what is “typical,” for this.

    Anecdotally I have been cited solely by people doing more theoretical/mathematical work than I’ve done, but I also have not written many ecology-related papers and have not yet published anything in collaboration with a proper ecologist, so I’m likely an outlier in this regard.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.