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The Life Cycle of Scholarly Articles across Fields of Research

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  • Sebastian Galiani
  • Ramiro H. Gálvez

Abstract

Aggregate citation behavior plays a key role in scientific knowledge diffusion, as citations document the collective and cumulative nature of knowledge production. Additionally, citations are commonly taken as input for several influential evaluative metrics used to assess researchers’ performance. Nevertheless, little effort has been devoted to understanding and quantifying how article citations evolve over the years following an article’s publication and how these trends vary across fields of research. By collecting and analyzing a dataset consisting of more than five million citations to 59,707 research articles from 12 dissimilar fields of research, we quantify how citations evolve across fields of research as articles grow older. Analyzing raw citation data spanning different periods poses several methodological challenges; to tackle them, we employ quantile regression, a technique that makes it possible to control for citation inflation (the fact that citations have become more common nowadays) and to take into consideration the well-known asymmetry in the distribution of citations. We find that citations follow a life-cycle pattern. In the first years after publication, articles generally receive a small but growing number of citations until, eventually, they reach a peak from which they then decline. Importantly, the shape of these life cycles varies greatly from one field to the next. Given that several influential metrics restrict their input to a certain range in terms of the number of years since publication, these differences are by no means neutral and should be taken into account when evaluating researchers or their institutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Galiani & Ramiro H. Gálvez, 2017. "The Life Cycle of Scholarly Articles across Fields of Research," NBER Working Papers 23447, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23447
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Björk, Bo-Christer & Solomon, David, 2013. "The publishing delay in scholarly peer-reviewed journals," Journal of Informetrics, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 914-923.
    2. Glenn Ellison, 2013. "How Does the Market Use Citation Data? The Hirsch Index in Economics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 63-90, July.
    3. Koenker,Roger, 2005. "Quantile Regression," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521845731, January.
    4. Victoria Anauati & Sebastian Galiani & Ramiro H. Gálvez, 2016. "Quantifying The Life Cycle Of Scholarly Articles Across Fields Of Economic Research," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(2), pages 1339-1355, April.
    5. Raymond J. Carroll, 2001. "Review Times in Statistical Journals: Tilting at Windmills?," Biometrics, The International Biometric Society, vol. 57(1), pages 1-6, March.
    6. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 71-102, October.
    7. Rosenberg, Nathan, 1974. "Science, Invention and Economic Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(333), pages 90-108, March.
    8. John Gibson & David L. Anderson & John Tressler, 2014. "Which Journal Rankings Best Explain Academic Salaries? Evidence From The University Of California," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 52(4), pages 1322-1340, October.
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    JEL classification:

    • B0 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - General

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