‘T was the night before Christmas, and a Hannukah night.
At the same time as Kwanzaa also happened have might…
Gather round, children, for a tale of a little boy – not five years has he spent on this Earth in grad school. This little boy has been very good, he worked the hardest he could – and by year’s end he has submitted his very first paper to arxiv!
Feeling good, feeling proud – candles lit, blessings said –
He drank milk, brushed his teeth and was headed to bed.
At this moment of peace and calm – an email arrived! It was from a world famous scientist. The scientist wrote that he read the boy’s paper! “With interest”! Oh! What a wonderful honor – thought the boy – for such a genius, who famously lived in a very tall tower of pure ivory – to have even glanced at my paper!
The boy continued reading:
“I worked hundreds of years in the same field as you.
And the papers I’ve written are a million and two.
But of them, dear Sir, to my utmost dismight,
Every one, except twenty, you have failed to cite!”
The boy felt terrible. Has he been naughty? Was his h-index two sizes too small? Will he not get presents? Did they even get presents in their religion? He could not sleep. He started adding all the missing citations to his manuscript.
“I should cite all the others who have worked very hard!”
And his small paper grew… Soon he needed a cart…
But then a magical fairy appeared. “Don’t be sad, I have a spell just for you”. And the fairy hacked into the webcam of famous scientist’s laptop. The scientist was typing and typing frantically. He was sending emails to all the people who posted their papers on arxiv that day.
“You see my dear friend” the fairy told “citations are not a form of respect, and they are not for giving credit. They are a tool to help understand the paper better. Excessive citing can make little readers confused, because they wouldn’t know which papers they should look up.”
The boy thought long and hard. He decided that the famous scientist is probably very lonely in his tall ivory tower. And the boy invited him to give a talk at their monthly graduate student seminar. The scientist agreed because there were cookies, hot chocolate and marshmallows.