Citation practices in different fields of science differ in terms of the age of the sources used. The number of citations shared at any given time is influenced by how recently recent articles tend to be cited, and how long after their publication an article articles continues to be cited – this also varies by field of science and affects the typical citation counts in the field (Moed et al., 1985; Dorta-González & Dorta-Gonzáles, 2013; Patience et al., 2017). Citing recent articles seems to increase the number of citations accumulating in the field of science (Patience et al., 2017).
Differences in coverage are partly due to the fact that the citation databases (Web of Science and Scopus) index series that journals which publish scientific articles more comprehensively than other publication channels. However, in some fields of science, a significant proportion of research is published in books rather than articles (e.g. in various social sciences and humanities) (Larivière et al., 2006) or in conference proceedings (in computer sciences) (Freyne et al., 2010). A large proportion of publications from these research areas are excluded from the citation databases.
The coverage of scientific journals publishing articles in the citation databases is not the same for all fields of science. The most used citation databases (Web of Science and Scopus)only index journals in which at least the title and abstract are in English. Therefore, most journals in other languages, such as Finnish, are excluded from them. Publishing in English is more common in natural sciences and medical science than, for example, in many social sciences and humanities, where the research is more specific conneted to a particular place and culture. The publishing language therefore partly explains the poorer coverage of social sciences, arts and humanities in the citation databases.
For these reasons, it is simpler to carry out citation analyses for fields of science that publish the majority of their research findings as articles in international scientific series journals (publishing in English) than for fields of science that publish mainly in Finnish or in formats other than scientific articles (e.g. books or conference proceedings). Research organisations’ own research information systems can be used for publication analyses in fields of science less covered by the citation databases. In this case, the analysis is not based on citation data, but on other characteristics of the publications, such as the language of publication or the number or proportion of national and international co-publications.
The variation in the total number of citations means that it is not possible to compare different fields of science, organisations or researchers on the basis of citations in a fair way (e.g. Garfield, 1979; Moed et al., 1985; Dorta-González & Dorta-Gonzáles, 2013; Mongeon & Paul-Hus, 2016), except by means of normalised indicators. For example, in practice, the h-index of a researcher carrying out purely sociological research cannot, in practice, rise nearly as high as a researcher researcher’s carrying out genetic research at a similar career stage.
|ESI Research Field||minimum number of citations received by the top 1% of papers from 2018 (2022)||ESI Research Field||minimum number of citations received by the top 1% of papers from 2018 (2022)|
|MOLECULAR BIOLOGY & GENETICS||164||COMPUTER SCIENCE||86|
|IMMUNOLOGY||113||PHARMACOLOGY & TOXICOLOGY||75|
|SPACE SCIENCE||100||AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES||64|
|BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY||98||PSYCHIATRY/PSYCOLOGY||64|
|ENVIRONMENT/ECOLOGY||96||ECONOMICS & BUSINESS||63|
|MICROBIOLOGY||96||PLANT & ANIMAL SCIENCE||52|
|NEUROSCIENCE & BEHAVIOR||94||SOCIAL SCIENCES, GENERAL||49|