When a play opens on Broadway, it's sure to be reviewed in the New York Times and other major papers, while off-Broadway productions may open and close without getting even a single mention in the press. Similarly, most papers brought to readers of such prestigious publications as the New England Journal of Medicine, Science, and Nature will be "reviewed"--that is, cited--in the science press, while thousands published in lower-impact journals may not be quoted even after 10 years.

The extent of a paper's "citedness," then, is fairly predictable. If it's published in a high-impact journal, it is highly likely to be cited. If it's published in a lower-impact periodical, it may remain uncited--even if it received high marks in prepublication peer review or is frequently read.

But the discussion of "uncitedness" shouldn't stop there. It is among the least understood yet most discussed issues among people who have little direct...

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