References of References: How Far is the Knowledge Ancestry

01/21/2021
by   Chao Min, et al.
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Scientometrics studies have extended from direct citations to high-order citations, as simple citation count is found to tell only part of the story regarding scientific impact. This extension is deemed to be beneficial in scenarios like research evaluation, science history modeling, and information retrieval. In contrast to citations of citations (forward citation generations), references of references (backward citation generations) as another side of high-order citations, is relatively less explored. We adopt a series of metrics for measuring the unfolding of backward citations of a focal paper, tracing back to its knowledge ancestors generation by generation. Two sub-fields in Physics are subject to such analysis on a large-scale citation network. Preliminary results show that (1) most papers in our dataset can be traced to their knowledge ancestry; (2) the size distribution of backward citation generations presents a decreasing-and-then-increasing shape; and (3) citations more than one generation away are still relevant to the focal paper, from either a forward or backward perspective; yet, backward citation generations are higher in topic relevance to the paper of interest. Furthermore, the backward citation generations shed lights for literature recommendation, science evaluation, and sociology of science studies.

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