Field of Science

Citing and being cited

One of the problems we work on is the sequence specificity of the H. influenzae DNA uptake system.  Over the past 10 years we've published 5 major studies of the uptake sequences in H. influenzae and related genomes, and of the bias of the DNA uptake machinery, and several other papers that also included some work on the topic.

Uptake specificity is known in only one other group of bacteria, where it has been extensively studied by another lab.  Our approaches have been similar; they have more funding and a larger molecular biology team but we have a better understanding of evolutionary processes and analysis.  Although we differ in our conclusions about the evolutionary function of uptake specificity, much of what they see in their system closely parallels what we see in ours, and the two systems are clearly convergent responses to very similar evolutionary forces.

We have been meticulous about discussing and citing their work, building an integrated picture of the two systems, and we have published one detailed bioinformatics paper that analyzed both systems, finding very strong similarities in the effects of uptake sequences on proteomes.

However they rarely cite our work. Until now I've just muttered under my breath about this, but their latest paper has me furious. It reports analyses in their system that closely parallel analyses we have reported in ours, and the results are strikingly similar in almost all points.  It's a very nice piece of work, published in a high-impact journal.  But the only mention of all our results is a single sentence in the Introduction, with the same paper later cited in the Methods for a trivial Perl script.  Some of their analyses are novel, but most are asking questions we've already answered in our system, often using more sophisticated methods than they used.

This failure to cite us must be deliberate -it's far too sweeping to be an oversight, and they certainly know that we're the other major group doing work on this problem.  The reviewers also should have caught this - the field is so small that any search for uptake sequences would put our work on the first page.

What's really a shame is that their paper is weaker for its neglect of ours.  They've thrown away the opportunity to extend their result into a unified picture of what happens in both systems.  Taking advantage of this lapse, we're now hard at work on a review that integrates findings from the two systems.

1 comment:

  1. Did you ever discuss this matter with the other group?


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