Scientists need to devote more attention to the citation lists of scientific papers—the connectivity and usefulness of the scientific literature depend upon it. The February Editorial in Nature Chemical Biology ( 6, 79; 2009) explores how “citations of published work link together the concepts, technologies and advances that define scientific disciplines. Though information technology and databases have helped us to better manage the expanding scientific literature, the quality of our citation maps still hinges on the quality of the bibliographic information contained in each published paper. Because article citations are increasingly used as metrics of researcher productivity, the citation record also affects individual scientists and their institutions. As a result, all participants in the scientific publication process need to ensure that the citation network of the scientific literature is as complete and accurate as possible.”
The Editorial goes on to discuss the factors that stand in the way of good citation practices, and explains how the journal ensures that the reference lists in the papers it pubishes are accurate and balanced. But although editors can help, authors are ultimately responsible for the work they cite in their papers, ensuring appropriateness, transparency and accuracy. Yet "the responsibility for maintaining and enhancing the citation network of a discipline resides with all participants: authors, referees, editors and database managers. Thoughtful attention during the writing and review processes remains the first and best approach for ensuring citation quality and the appropriate assignment of credit in published papers. Yet new publishing and database tools that lead us to an interactive multidimensional scientific literature will become essential.
As publishers move toward integrating functionality such as real-time commenting on published papers and creating ‘living manuscripts’ that preserve the snapshot of a research area through the lens of a published paper, while permitting forward and backward linking, the scientific literature is poised to become a richer environment that will support future scientific progress."