Agreement seems lacking, among researchers, on the question of which citations to a scientific article are “legitimate”, i.e., worthy of being included among the total number of hits received by that particular article (typically for the purpose of evaluating one’s h-index).
Should one include a cite to an article, if that cite appears in a manuscript that has not (yet) been refereed, such as a book chapter or a preprint ? What about a conference abstract ? Or, a talk that is available online ?
My simple criterion to discriminate between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” citations is this:
if the source is one that can be cited in a printed journal article, then any citation included therein is a legitimate scholarly citation, and as such it should be treated. It should therefore be included in the total citation counts for all the articles that it cites.
The rationale is simple: if authors, reviewers and editors find a manuscript, or any other source, worth of being cited, regardless of whether it is refereed or not, it is because the information that it contains is deemed cogent and accurate. In that case, there is absolutely no reason not to take seriously the reference list of that very same manuscript or source.
Probably, the way I feel about this subject reflects my views on the value of peer review (see this old post of mine), but I think that this is likely the direction that the community is taking anyway.
In physics, I do not believe that it is presently possible to cite things like abstracts, online talks, blogs, internal university reports, and I am not even sure about theses; on the other hand, ArXiv preprints, book chapters and conference proceedings are regarded as perfectly legitimate sources.
Any objections ?