long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The citation cartel

I've mentioned this before, but just saw another thing on it so I'll bring it up as a separate post. A "citation cartel" is a group of authors who cite one another. A piece in Scientific American put it this way:

"But really, excessive self-citation is for amateurs: the real thing is forming a "citation cartel" as Phil David from The Scholarly Kitchen puts it. In April this year, after receiving a "tip from a concerned scientist" Davis did some detective work using the JCR data and found that several journals published reviews citing an unusually high number of articles fitting the JIF window from other journals. In one case, the Medical Science Monitor published a 2010 review citing 490 articles, 445 of them were published in 2008-09 in the journal Cell Transplantation (44 of the other 45 were for articles from Medical Science Journal published in 2008-09 as well). Three of the authors were Cell Transplantation editors. This is even nastier than excessive journal self-citation because, as Davis points out, self-citing can be detected without too much effort, but citation cartels are trickier. In the good news, three out of the four journals Davis reported as suspects of cartel behavior were suspended from the JCR, and Retraction Watch reports that two of the manipulating articles have been retracted. This means TR will have to remove the sentence about citation circles who "call to mind the mythical unicorn" from their next white paper."

One common attribute of Mesoamericanist articles published by FARMS/Maxwell Institute, the Interpreter, FairMormon, BMAF, and the rest, is self-citation and citation to a core group of approved authors. It's groupthink at it's best. I noticed this even on lds.org, where the DNA article cites these authors (in addition to seven presumably non-LDS authors):

Ugo Perego
Robert L. Millet
Michael F. Whiting
Daniel C. Peterson
John L. Sorenson
Times and Seasons from 1842
Hugh Nibley
Matthew Roper
Anthony W. Ivins

The citation to Roper is his 2008 piece titled "Nephi's Neighbors" which in turn cites Sorenson a dozen times, Roper (himself) 4 times, Nibley, Ivins (using the same quotation that's in the lds.org article), Whiting, and the Times and Seasons from 1842. He didn't cite Perego, Peterson or Millet; however, Perego wrote an article in 2014 for the Interpreter that cites Roper, Sorenson, Peterson, and Nibley.

The Maxwell Institute features a book titled "The Book of Mormon and DNA Research," published in 2008. The authors include:

Michael F. Whiting
Daniel C. Peterson
John L. Sorenson (2 articles)
Matthew Roper (3 articles)

I won't belabor the point, but it's something to watch for any time you read a piece on Book of Mormon geography from FARMS/Maxwell Institute, Interpreter, FairMormon, BMAF, and the like. The basic pattern is to cite a General Authority or two, favorably cite some fellow Mesoamericanists, unfavorably cite an anti-Mormon (or, worse, a Heartlander), and then conclude that you've reaffirmed the legitimacy of the Mesoamerican setting. This has been going on for years.

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