Citation Success: Evidence from Economic History Journal Publications

By  Waldenström, Daniel (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN); Di Vaio, Gianfranco (University of Perugia); and Weisdorf, Jacob (University of Copenhagen).


This study analyses determinants of citation success among authors publishing in economic history journals. Bibliometric features, like article length and number of authors, are positively correlated with the citation rate up to a certain point. Remarkably, publishing in top-ranked journals hardly affects citations. In regard to author-specific characteristics, male authors, full professors and authors working economics or history departments, and authors employed in Anglo-Saxon countries, are more likely to get cited than others. As a ‘shortcut’ to citation success, we find that research diffusion, measured by number of presentations and people mentioned in acknowledgement, boosts the citation rate.

As first posting  I have selected an impact measurement rather than a thematic paper. This to give a feel that even a somewhat “neutral” topic can be used to entice discussion. Also to comment on the sources and assumptions that the authors used for their “in discipline” study, namely traditional, in print, peer-reviewed journals. This as  in this first posting I am trying to make a statement about the much talked about role and future of on-line publications vis a vis “traditional” outlets, while building around two underlying ideas in the above article namely impact and boundary.

The main goal of the “Citation Success” paper is to assess the impact of publishing in top journals for economic historians. They composed a sample made out of 657 citations and 450 authors from 14 outlets in 2007. Comparisons for the same year with NEP-HIS would result in authors and citations many times greater in the on-line report than in the printed journals. Of course, NEP operates a “simple editorial” policy. Early on NEP’s “founding parents” decided not to influence content in anyway but to take contributions at face value and disseminate on the basis of potential interest. Whereas the 14 outlets selected by the authors of the study actively engage peers in shaping a contribution to suit the outlet’s particular audience.  Hence my first question, will blogging have any future to shape the future of printed and on-line publications?

As is the case in many other citation analysis studies,  major drawback of the paper is failing to consider books.  I will leave this aside for the time being. But promise to return in another posting.

I was also interested in how the authors conceived the boundaries of the discipline. The 14 outlets are firmly established in economic history. However, the membership of NEP-HIS and indeed its title (economic, business and financial history) suggest an important overlap with other areas of knowledge (and people outside Economic Departments) where there are learned societies and such as business, accounting and marketing which also have well established outlets (e.g. Business History, Business History Review, Enterprise & Society, Journal of Management History, Journal of Macromarketing, etc). My own anecdotal impression of pandering for membership of NEP-HIS is that growth for economic and business history studies is in business schools and, contrary to the author’s finding, not in history departments (where the interest is fast moving away from economics into other areas of the social science such as gender, social history or the arts such as politics and culture). The second question is: What makes  an economic historian and what should be the boundaries of the field?

Apologies then for such a long and self indulging comment. My aim has not been to criticise the authors of this paper but to use the contents as a platform for this blog  as well as present some of my views on what I think we need to do for it and indeed the discipline, to prosper.

5 thoughts on “Citation Success: Evidence from Economic History Journal Publications

  1. Christian Zimmermann

    This paper leaves out a potentially important determinant of citation success: whether the article is available as a working paper. Indeed, when potential readers (and citers) only find the gated journal version, they may never have the opportunity to read more than an abstract, and thus may not cite this work. Also, working papers are available much earlier, thus have a longer time to become known and cited. There is evidence from other sciences that having a working paper (or have the journal available in open access) brings a significant citation advantage. It would have been nice to see whether this were also the case in Economic History.

    1. Gianfranco Di Vaio

      This is a very good point. Thanks for raising it. By construction, our dataset comprises citations made in 2007 to previously published articles, independently on the year of publication. This makes almost impossible to check the working paper availability for articles published, let’s say, in the Seventies or the Eighties. We might look only at a sub-set of more recent papers, but I guess the actual sample would be too small. Anyway, I completely agree. It would be interesting to test if the mentioned effect also holds for Economic History, probably using data collected in a different way.

  2. Andre Sammartino

    They could have picked up some portion of the citations from books etc via the use of Anne-Wil Harzing’s Publish or Perish software ( which extracts results from Google Scholar.

    I am curious about the focus on “within-economic history” citations. Given our interdisciplinary nature, observed cites from economics, management, history etc might be just as valid.

    Nevertheless, an inightful paper.

  3. Daniel Waldenström

    Thanks for this highlight and the many insightsful comments from all of you. I agree that there are some aspects and specific variables that are omitted from the analysis. In particular, citations from books, book chapters etc should probably have gone into the dataset, but were never collected as the original purpuse of the dataset was to form the basis of a pure journal ranking.

    As for excluding non-general economic history journals, e.g., it’s not obvious what other journals to include so as to sustain a fairly well-defined field approach. After all, whether business history belongs to economic history is an open question (both the weight given to theory and choice of methodological approach differ sometimes vastly between the two fields). Social history is in some countries incorporated into the field by the very name of the discipline, whereas it in other countries lies much closer to (political) history than to economic history. Similar problems aries when thinking of whether to include history journals focusing on, e.g., the family, technology or accounting. Perhaps least problematic in this sense would be to include financial history journals.

    As for assessing the impact of having had the paper listed as electronic working papers, that might be something worthwhile looking into. A problem, however, is that some of the cited articles were published a quite long time ago (though they were all cited in 2007) and it would be difficult to assembled information about WP status at that time. Not to mention modeling the different dissemination effects of listing WP’s today vs 20 years ago. But if a referee urges us to do it we might give it a try… 😉

  4. Pingback: NEP-HIS blog - Gianfranco Di Vaio

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