The narrowing of literature use and the restricted mobility of papers in the sciences

by   Attila Varga, et al.

It is a matter of debate whether a shrinking proportion of scholarly literature is getting most of the references over time. It is also less well understood how a narrowing literature usage would affect the circulation of ideas in the sciences. Here we show, that the utilization of scientific literature follows dual tendencies over time: while a larger proportion of literature is cited at least a few times, citations are also concentrating more on the top of the citation distribution. Parallel to the latter trend, a paper's future importance increasingly depends on its past citation performance. A random network model shows that the citation concentration is directly related to the greater stability of citation performance. The presented evidence suggests that the growing heterogeneity of citation impact restricts the mobility of research articles that do not gain attention early on. While concentration grows from the beginning of the studied period in 1970, citation dispersion manifest itself significantly only from the mid-1990s when the popularity of freshly published papers has also risen. Most likely, advanced information technologies to disseminate papers are behind both of these latter trends.


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