Sauvayre R. (2022), « , Misreferencing practice of Scientists: Inside Researchers’ Sociological and Bibliometric Profiles  », Social Epistemology.
DOI : 10.1080/02691728.2021.2022807


Scientists, as human beings, sometimes make mistakes. The aim of this case study was to examine the misreferencing practice of scientists. Citations of two documents about the neuroimaging of a dead salmon were collected. A total of 173 references were extracted from Google Scholar and analyzed by both qualitative and quantitative methods. The findings reveal a reference error rate of 93.1%, involving 419 authors. Sociological and bibliometric data about the authors were collected and revealed that referencing errors can be committed by all types of researchers. Further, a major referencing error was discovered in 22.5% of the citing documents, involving 121 authors, that is, the citation of a poster as if it were an article published in a prestigious journal. This major error was committed by the more prolific and recognized researchers. The higher the first author’s number of citations, number of publications or h-index, the more major reference errors (citing a “ghost” paper) were committed. Nevertheless, the ScienceDirect database bears some responsibility, as it indexed abstracts of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping meeting as journal articles that had never been published in the prestigious NeuroImage journal. Finally, this case study raises epistemological concerns about research and its dissemination.

Keywords : Questionable research practice; reference error; citation analysis; bibliographical databases; research ethics; peer-review system; publication pressure.