Cite responsibly

In this month’s Editorial, we discuss why it is crucial for scientists to give credit to previous work by referencing responsibly. This is not always an easy task, especially in multidisciplinary research, so we provide what we hope are some helpful tips for constructing optimal reference lists.

Other Nature Research journals have also published editorials on this topic in past years (see, for example, pieces written in Nature Cell Biology and Nature Chemical Biology).

Our official policy about referencing states in very general terms that authors must appropriately cite and describe previously published relevant intellectual and technical contributions. The policy allows for citations of preprints and conference abstracts, but if such a paper has been peer-reviewed and published in a journal, the journal paper should serve as the reference. Expert reviewers often identify relevant papers that authors might have missed, and editors can help shape reference lists prior to acceptance, but ultimately, authors bear the responsibility of assigning appropriate credit to work that came before.

We are happy to answer any questions, whether general or paper-specific, about appropriate referencing.