Tue, 09 Sep 2003 13:03:28 GMT

Uncitedness. Here's an interesting article from a decade ago with (perhaps)
surprising figures on the uncitedness
of academic articles by discipline. It seems disheartening to observe
that much published research doesn't seem to be of use to other
researchers – at least not enough to warrant a citation. I wonder how
things have evolved

Research Papers: Who's Uncited Now?

Pendlebury found that physics
and chemistry had the lowest rates of uncitedness — 36.7% and 38.8% of
the papers published in those disciplines, respectively, were not cited
at all in the 4 years following publication. […] The figure for engineering, however, is above that average — well above
it, in fact. More than 72% of all papers published in engineering had no
citations at all. Pendlebury says he is at a loss to explain this anomaly,
although he suggests that “sociological factors” might influence the way
engineering researchers cite each other's work.

[…] But scientists, social and otherwise, can take heart. Within the arts
and humanities (where admittedly citation is not so firmly entrenched),
uncitedness figures hit the ceiling. Consider, for example, theater (99.9%),
American literature (99.8%), architecture (99.6%), and religion (98.2%).
And, in one curious anomaly, articles in history (95.5%) and philosophy
(92.1%) were relatively uncited, while those in history and philosophy
of science (29.2%) were not.

This has also got me wondering about rates of unlinkedness for weblog
posts. Surely they are huge – though it should be kept in mind that in
the blogosphere the order is “publish, then filter” rather than the other way around.
[Seb's Open Research]


I'm not sure of the methods used here, but I know the ISI recently cited isn't very revealing for social sciences and humanities. However, i think that there are several reasons why the traditions are different in measurements here. Primarily i think it might have to do something with the draft-dissemination models that occur before publishing. A draft dissemination model is how drafts come to be read before printed by their audiences. some traditions have this strongly embedded others do not.

My other thought on this is that citations should go up as knowledge communities get narrower in focus, and thus have fewer people involved. In large disciplines this then is an indication of fragmentation, or the multiplications of many subdisciplines, as there are in the hard sciences, where physics is just something you teach to underclassmen and upperclasswomen choose and begin to learn a subdiscipline.