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  • 1 Institute of Biological and Health Sciences, Federal University of Alagoas, Maceio, AL, 57010-020, Brazil
  • 2 School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford University, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
  • 3 Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543, Singapore
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Abstract

Most scientific research has some form of local geographical bias. This could be caused by researchers addressing a geographically localized issue, working within a nationally or regionally defined research network, or responding to research agendas that are influenced by national policy. These influences should be reflected in citation behavior, e.g., more citations than expected by chance of papers by scientists from institutions within the same country. Thus, assessing adjusted levels of national self-citation may give insights into the extent to which national research agendas and scientific cultures influence the behavior of scientists. Here we develop a simple metric of scientific insularism based on rates of national self citation corrected for total scientific output. Based on recent publications (1996–2010), higher than average levels of insularism are associated with geographically large rapidly developing nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China—the so-called BRIC nations), and countries with strongly ideological political regimes (Iran). Moreover, there is a significant negative correlation between insularism and the average number of citations at the national level. Based on these data we argue that insularism (higher than average levels of national self-citation) may reflect scientific cultures whose priorities and focus are less tightly linked to global scientific norms and agendas. We argue that reducing such insularity is an overlooked challenge that requires policy changes at multiple levels of science education and governance.

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