Thursday, August 14, 2014

SEP Citation Patterns: Further Analysis and Thoughts

Last week I posted a list of the 267 most-cited contemporary philosophers in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, including a gender and ethnicity analysis. I've been fiddling around with the data a bit more (as well as correcting a few errors).

Comparing my 2014 analysis with my 2010 analysis:

* In 2010, I posted a similar list. The biggest methodological difference is that I included historical entries in 2014, while I had excluded them in 2010. Thus, Jonathan Barnes (71st), Julia Annas (81st), Anthony Kenny (95th), and many other historians appear on the 2014 list but not in the 2010; and Martha Nussbaum, Jonathan Bennett, Christine Korsgaard, for example, appear higher up the 2014 list (9th, 30th, and 58th, respectively) than the 2010 list (19th, 52nd, and 99th).

* Another striking difference is several logicians' much higher ranking in 2014. For example, Jaakko Hintikka rose from 76th to 30th, Alfred Tarksi from 72nd to 46th, Kit Fine from 82nd to 48th, and Nicholas Rescher from 72nd to 48th. My first thought was that this might reflect a large number of new SEP entries in logic and philosophy of math. And maybe that is part of the story, but a quick perusal of the SEP entries published between 2010 and 2014 does not show a particularly striking trend in that direction.

* I was also struck by Stephen Darwall's shift from 156th (21 qualifying entries in 2010) to 66th (48 qualifying entries in 2014), despite the fact that there was no general rise in ethicists' rankings.

Year of Publication:

I searched each bibliographic line for four-string digits "1900", "1901", etc., assuming that virtually all such strings will be publication years of cited work. On that assumption, the most cited year is 2003 and the runner-up is 1999. The citation advantage of publication about 10-15 years ago is very strong, as is evident from this figure:

The peak citation year was 2000 in my 2010 analysis.

Also, if you squint at the graph above, you'll notice what seems to be dips in the production of cited work during the two world wars.

The Baby Boom Philosophy Bust?

In 2011, I conjectured that the generation of philosophers hired during the 1960s to teach the baby boomers -- the depression-war generation -- sat atop the social hierarchy in philosophy through the 1990s and prevented the baby boomers from attaining as much visibility as they otherwise would have. If so, this would explain the relative paucity of boomers in the topmost slots: Nussbaum is the only boomer in the top twenty, whereas depression-war babies occupy ten of the top twenty slots (Lewis, Kripke, Nozick, Nagel, Searle, Fodor, Dennett, Harman, Jackson, and van Fraassen). Now another possibility is that the baby boomers have not yet had time for their influence to be fully felt and reflected in the SEP. Indeed, this is quite possibly the case. Even the older boomers are still in their 60s and philosophers often produce very influential work late in their careers. On the other hand, the SEP's bias toward recent work, as reflected in the chart above, would seem if anything to favor the boomers over the older generations. Also, in an earlier analysis of Philosopher's Index, I found that philosophers tend to receive peak professional attention (in the form of mentions in the abstracts of philosophy articles) around ages 55-70, which is the current age range of the baby boomers. Then again (back on the first hand), if we look at the entire 267 and not just the top 20 -- still a very select group! -- the boomers are about as well represented as the previous generation.

Methodology: Second Authors and Multiple Citations per Entry:

My technique (as mentioned in the post) was to only count first authors. Second authors proved computationally intractable. I did keep noticing names of some people who were often appearing as second authors and who thus deserve to show higher on the list. Let me apologize for the unfairness of this. I'm tempted to list some names, but since I can't do so systematically I fear compounding the unfairness toward the regularly appearing second authors who didn't happen to come to my attention. If someone wants to attempt a systematic repair, I would welcome that.

My technique was only to count the number of front-page entries in which the author's work is cited, not total number of citations. Prepping my 2010 analysis, I tried it both ways, and counting total SEP entries rather than total bibligraphic lines produced a list with better face validity as a measure of visibility in Anglophone philosophy. My impression is that this was because although having four different works cited in one entry probably does tend to reflect more visibility on the topic than having only one work cited, it probably doesn't reflect four times as much visibility. (For example, Kaplan and Soames have four bibliographic lines each in the entry on names, while Kripke only has one line.)

Re-analyses: Schliesser and Leiter:

Eric Schliesser suggests an interesting measure of closeness to the sociological core of Anglophone/analytic philosophy by considering what percentage of the list you can count as former teachers of yours. (I, like Schliesser, count 4 [1.5%].) Another measure might be how many of the authors on the list you recognize well enough to be able to say in what subfield they made their main contribution. (For me, this would have been maybe all but ten.) Eric also makes an interesting point about Jewish philosophers, which I'll discuss in a follow-up post.

Brian Leiter re-analyzes the data to rank departments by summing the entry count of the faculty appearing on the list. Interestingly, there is considerable overlap between the rankings derived by this SEP-based method and Leiter's 2011 Gourmet Report rankings of philosophy departments in the English-speaking world. All but three departments in this "SEP top twenty" appear in the top twenty of the Gourmet Report's rankings, and those three (UT Austin, Notre Dame, and Duke) all appear in the Gourmet top 30. Conversely, all but three of the Gourmet top 20 departments appear in this SEP-based top twenty, with the exceptions (Cornell, Arizona, and Toronto) all in the last spot among the Gourmet's top 20 (a 5-way tie for 15th). I find it very striking that these two superficially very different methods yield such similar results. It suggests, to me, that whatever sociological phenomenon the Leiter rankings capture is also captured pretty well by looking at SEP citation rates. There is much less overlap, in contrast, between the top scoring schools in the 2010 NRC research rankings and either the Leiter or SEP rankings (e.g., CUNY, Yale, USC, and UCLA, in this SEP-based top-twenty, are all 50th or lower in the NRC if one sorts by the average of the high and low research scores).

More Group Analyses:

A number of people have urged that I look at potentially disadvantaged groups besides women and ethnic minorities, especially queer, disabled, Jewish, and non-native English speaker. So I'm working a follow-up post about that, hopefully up later today.

Update: I've posted the analyses.

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