Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How to Get Cited a Lot

Ultimately for an academic researcher the goal is to get your research cited and used by other people whether in their pure science work or in policy applications. Getting published is nice, but just the first step in an academic career. Also, I believe that as people get more and more familiar with the online citation databases citations will be used more and more to evaluate researchers. So, if you are not yet world famous in your field how do you get people to cite your work among all the other thousands of publications appearing continuously in the academic literature. Here are a couple of methods I have used where I convert what some people (of the Ferriss type) would think were irrelevant distractions into productive activities.

A. Review papers for academic journals so that they can decide whether to publish them. This might seem like a real waste of time. Usually, you aren't paid for it. Maybe you can use it to curry favor with journal editors. Certainly, rejecting review requests from journals you want to publish in is not a good idea unless you have a good excuse - i.e. the paper is not in your area of expertise. On the other hand, I don't accept all requests as I get too many. This isn't a problem for a beginning researcher :) I preferentially accept requests from more prestigious journals and otherwise focus on papers which are:

1. Likely to be published and have not referred to my research when relevant. In my review I state that the authors ought to cite my work.

2. Papers that shouldn't be published but where there is a danger other reviewers for that journal might not see the flaw. Particularly if they cite me but misunderstand or misuse my research.

Occasionally there are papers that should be published that cites my work but misinterprets it. I can put a comment in my review to get a better interpretation in the final paper.

B. I get sent to my Google Reader regular listings of new "working papers" in my field. Working papers are papers that have not yet been published in a journal. But probably they will be published in revised form. This is useful for keeping up with new ideas in the field (some people tell me that this subscription is an irrelevant distraction of course). If a paper does not cite my work but should cite it, I sometimes send the authors an e-mail praising their work and stating that my paper on a related topic may be useful. I attach the paper in question. If I see published papers of this sort I also sometimes send an e-mail as maybe they can cite my paper in their next paper.

Book authors go on tours to promote their work. Why shouldn't academic authors also market their publications? And, yes, this website and blog are also marketing tools.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Book Reviews: Gladwell

I read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. While it is a good read I found it rather frustrating. I agree totally with the tone of the Wikipedia article. I guess it is too journalistic and not analytical enough. Sometimes making intuitive judgments is good and sometimes it is not. Some people are born with the abilities to make them and other times they can train to have those abilities. Well, the real world is messy I suppose but Gladwell doesn't make it much more tidy.

Next I tried to read "The Tipping Point". After reading about people who are "Connectors", "Mavens", and "Salesmen" I quickly got bored and gave up on reading. Maybe it is just too culturally specific to the US (where I lived ten years so other non-Americans would be really alienated). Very lengthy examples are Paul Revere, Sesame Street etc. It really didn't seem to be about how small things make a big difference as it is subtitled but about how social networks work. It really wasn't about "tipping points" at all as I would understand the term.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Reviews: Zilliak and McCloskey and Taleb

Shuang brought home borrowed copies of Ziliak and McCloskey's "Cult of Statistical Signficance" and Taleb's "The Black Swan". in a way both are rants against standard practice in quantitative analysis. But Taleb's book is ten times better or more than Ziliak and McCloskey's. The latter have a single point that researchers often misuse the concept of statistical significance and ignore the actual size of an effect or variable in favor of just stating that it is "significant" - which just means in statistics that there is a low probability that we think there is an effect when there is none (the probability of falsely rejecting a null hypothesis that is in fact true). Now many researchers write up ineffective discussions of what their research found or make fundamental mistakes in method. But it's not universal and the book never really explains key concepts such as what statistical significance is. It's just one huge rant against all the economists and statisticans that the author feels have oppressed them or their like-thinkers. It assumes we know these things and know the authors critique already (which I do as an economist). The statistician R. A. Fisher is the big villain of the story and Gosset the oppressed hero. But there is never any discussion of exactly what their contributions were.

By contrast, Taleb defines all the basic ideas he uses and has more than one idea. Not all are original of course. Many are commonplace in recent behavioral economics and in more general economics. And they are not esoteric ideas in economics. Winner takes all ideas are in Frank and Bernanke's introductry textbook that I used to teach from. There are notes for the sources at the end of the book. And yes he rants and raves against everyone he believes thinks incorrectly but he does it in an amusing way. I like to read him and didn't find him too annoying. Some people complain about his use of fiction, autobiography, and fictionalised autobiography alongside factual material. In this he reminds me of Robert Pirsig who embedded philosophical and autobiographical material in a story about a motorbike trip across America in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". I don't have a problem with it. It makes the book much more readable than it would otherwise be.