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Chapter 42 : The Citation Game
Citation analysis provokes strong but mixed reactions among most working scientists. Some have, consciously or otherwise, benefited from career rewards associated with publication in high-impact journals. The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-2003 provided an opportunity for citation analysts to make a far more potent point, one that could have been influential in terms of science policy. Although the Chinese authorities appeared to be slow to inform the rest of the world about SARS when it emerged in November 2002, later progress in understanding the condition was astonishingly quick. Looking back to those early papers, one is reminded of the vast infrastructure of microbiology that facilitated progress in characterizing an infection even more baffling than SARS. Some of the work, on the immune system, had been supported for no specific practical purpose whatever but simply as basic science, yet the results were there, years later, when they were urgently required. Countless scientists wrote to The Times to remind the government of the importance of pure research as the seedbed from which important applications later flowed. Three decades later, SARS and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS, because of both their inherent novelty and the novel challenges they posed, would have been excellent candidates for scientometric research.