When too much research is more than plenty

The more research published the fewer the new ideas that attract attention,  John Chu and James Evans (UniChicago) argue in a new analysis of Web of Science citation patterns.  They found that when a discipline has “manynew publications in a year; the papers most cited will not change year on year, new papers are more likely to cite those already most cited, the probability of a new paperbecoming canon” is small and “localised diffusion and preferential attachment” will not explain why a new paper becomes one of those most cited.

“If too many papers are published in short order, new ideas cannot be carefully considered against old, and processes of cumulative advantage cannot work to select valuable innovations. The more-is-better quantity metric-driven nature of today’s scientific enterprise may ironically be retarding fundamental progress in the largest scientific fields. Proliferation of journals and the blurring of journal hierarchies due to online article-level access can exacerbate this problem,” they write.


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