News stories as evidence for research? BBC citations from articles, books and Wikipedia
Although news stories target the general public and are sometimes inaccurate, they can serve as sources of real-world information for researchers. This article investigates the extent to which academics exploit journalism using content and citation analyses of online BBC News stories cited by Scopus articles. A total of 27,234 Scopus-indexed publications have cited at least one BBC News story, with a steady annual increase. Citations from arts and humanities (2.8% of publications in 2015) and social sciences (1.5%) were more likely than citations from medicine (0.1%) and science (<0.1%). Surprisingly, half of the sampled Scopus-cited science and technology (53%) and medicine and health (47%) stories were based on academic research, rather than otherwise unpublished information, suggesting that researchers have chosen a lower quality secondary source for their citations. Nevertheless, the BBC News stories that were most frequently cited by Scopus, Google Books and Wikipedia introduced new information from many different topics, including politics, business, economics, statistics, and reports about events. Thus, news stories are mediating real world knowledge into the academic domain, a potential cause for concern.