B - Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship

Evans J A. Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship. Science 2008;321(5887):395 - 399
DOI: 10.1126/science.1150473

Using a database of 34 million articles, their citations (1945 to 2005), and online availability (1998 to 2005), the author shows that as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles. The results of this study are that searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon.



Stevan Harnad said…
See also: Are Online and Free Online Access Broadening or Narrowing Research?

Excerpts: Before OA, researchers cited what they could afford to access, and that was not necessarily all the best work, so they could not be optimally selective for quality, importance and relevance...

When everything becomes accessible, researchers can be more selective and can cite only what is most relevant, important and of high quality. (It has been true all along that about 80-90% of citations go to the top 10-20% of articles. Now that the top 10-20% (along with everything else in astrophysics), is accessible to everyone, everyone can cite it, and cull out the less relevant or important 80-90%...

Are online and free online access broadening or narrowing research? They are broadening it by making all of it accessible to all researchers, focusing it on the best rather than merely the accessible, and accelerating it.