Keeping Journalists in the Dark: ‘Citation Cartels’ Limit Public Knowledge

The public relies on journalists to learn about and share academic research. Public knowledge can be undermined, however, when academics try to influence what research journalists cover or limit the “acceptable debate” about an issue.

This influence can be achieved through “citation cartels,” where sympathetic researchers cite and reference one another and ignore or dismiss the high-quality research of others that reaches different conclusions. Citation cartels belittle research they disagree with, rather than refute it.

Citation cartels can advance researchers’ careers substantially: Cartel members receive more media exposure and get more academic citations. Universities consider citation numbers as evidence of research productivity and influence, which affects hiring and promotion decisions.

A prime example of this process is media coverage of standardized testing. …

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