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Heavy-tailed distribution of the number of publications within scientific journals

by   Robin Delabays, et al.

The community of scientists is characterized by their need to publish in peer-reviewed journals, in an attempt to avoid the "perish" side of the famous maxim. Accordingly, almost all researchers authored some scientific articles. Scholarly publications represent at least two benefits for the study of the scientific community as a social group. First, they attest of some form of relation between scientists (collaborations, mentoring, heritage,...), useful to determine and analyze social subgroups. Second, most of them are recorded in large data bases, easily accessible and including a lot of pertinent information, easing the quantitative and qualitative study of the scientific community. Understanding the underlying dynamics driving the creation of knowledge in general, and of scientific publication in particular, in addition to its interest from the social science point of view, can contribute to maintaining a high level of research, by identifying good and bad practices in science. In this manuscript, we attempt to advance this understanding by a statistical analysis of publications within peer-reviewed journals. Namely, we show that the distribution of the number of articles published by an author in a given journal is heavy-tailed, but has lighter tail than a power law. Moreover, we observe some anomalies in the data that pinpoint underlying dynamics of the scholarly publication process.


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