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Increase in number of scientific articles decreases visibility of individual articles

Rapid growth in the number of publications makes it difficult for researchers to keep up with research results that are relevant to their own field.

In collaboration with their American colleagues, computational science researchers from Aalto University have published a study that utilises extensive electronic databases to examine the visibility of scientific articles among scholars.

'Scientific publications can be studied via citation and co-citation analyses, which we also utilised in our own research on the decrease in visibility of scientific content. We found that article visibility decreases according to exponentials, and that the decay is getting faster and faster in recent times' explains Professor Santo Fortunato.

'Most importantly, we noticed that if time is measured in terms of how many papers are produced, the decay in attention is approximately constant. So the phenomenon is not due to a shortening of the attention span of scientists, but by the deluge of published items." 

The research material consisted of articles and reviews written in English that were in the Thomson Reuters (TR) Web of Science up until 2010.  The researchers classified the publications into four categories: clinical medicine, molecular biology, chemistry and physics. These fields contain the greatest number of publications. The research focused on so-called Top 10% publications, which has the greatest number of citations.

For more information:

Santo Fortunato
Professor of Complex Systems
[email protected]

Department of Biomedical Engineering 
and Computational Science
Aalto University

Link to the article on arXiv.org

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