Re: an aside on empirical memetics

Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog (
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 11:27:49 -0500

Message-Id: <>
Date: Tue, 10 Jun 1997 11:27:49 -0500
From: (Timothy Perper/Martha Cornog)
Subject: Re: an aside on empirical memetics

Bill Benzon wrote>
>In the "New Edition" of "The Selfish Gene" Dawkins has an endnote (pp. 325
>ff.) where he follows the acceptance of a particular "meme" ("kin
>selection") by counting citations to 2 seminal papers on the topic. He
>notes that such citation counts do affect hiring and promotion decisions in
>the academy. So there is a case where the population distribution of ideas
>has a very practical effect on academic decision making.
>And, of course, counts of distributions of ideas are central to publishing,
>recording, & movies, which live and die by counts of tickets bought and
>titles sold (which are reasonable proxy measures for distribution of

The past-master at this sort of citation counting is Eugene Garfield,
founder of the Institute for Scientific Information in Philadelphia, which
publishes Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Social Science
Citation Index. Garfield was instrumental in developing "bibliometrics,"
which is the study of cross-reference patterns among journals, scholars,
and so forth. One of the big battles about bibliometrics was the use of
"citations to" an author as a measure of his or her "productivity" for the
purposes of tenure and promotion. I knew one case that almost went to a
lawsuit on this issue.

Anyone who wants to follow up citation patterns cannot do better than
contact ISI -- they have immense amounts of data on it. It's no small

Tim Perper

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