One of the reasons why I don’t use reference management software….

….is that it creates nonsense like this! Now, I’m sure that spatial and temporal trends of global pollination have, indeed, benefited me – but that’s not the title of the paper! The actual title is “Spatial and Temporal Trends of Global Pollination Benefit” – full stop. I handled the paper when I was an editor at PLOS One and somehow my role has been bundled into the title by whatever reference management system the authors have used.

I won’t embarrass the authors by saying where it’s from, but it’s yet another example of something that I blogged about a few years ago – that reference management systems encourage sloppy referencing practices.

One thing that “Spatial and Temporal Trends of Global Pollination Benefit Jeff Ollerton” does get right, though, is subject-verb agreement – check out Steve Heard’s post over at Scientist Sees Squirrel on this very topic, and how a careful analysis of sentence structure can improve your writing.

5 thoughts on “One of the reasons why I don’t use reference management software….

  1. mj

    But you can just check and edit the references in the management software. Then it’s correct in all future uses.

    Without a comparison of error rate between how people use reference mgmt software and people who do everything manually, it’s really just cherry picking one source of error, no?

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      Yes, one can certainly do that. But my suspicion is that people aren’t doing it, or are not doing it until after papers are published and someone spots the error. Read the post that I linked to and the comments from others – I’m not the only one who is seeing a trend.

      1. jeffollerton Post author

        I should also add that it would be impossible to make this kind of mistake when manually dealing with references, unless one was very, very sloppy indeed.

  2. janecallaghan

    But this is user error, not software error. You have to check the records when you enter them!

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      I partly disagree Jane. It’s only user error in the sense that users are assuming that the details that are automatically downloaded to their reference management systems are accurate, and not checking them.
      Sometimes they are far from accurate: see my example in the earlier post I link to, where “Park” and “Campus” are listed as co-authors on one of my papers! I don’t see how that can initially be a human error – it’s just that the software is mixing up author and address fields.


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