Too much of a good thing?

July 23rd, 2008

An NSF press release shows that as more and more research papers become available online, scientists cite fewer and fewer of them. Sociologist James Evans, who focuses on the nature of scholarly research, looked into the impact of the Internet on science in an NSF-supported study. He found that scholars are actually citing fewer papers in their own work, and the papers they do cite tend to be more recent publications. This trend may be limiting the creation of new ideas and theories. As Evans speculates, "With science and scholarship increasing online, findings and ideas that don't receive attention very soon will be forgotten more quickly than ever before."

The story is now out in Science magazine 321: 395-399: "Electronic publication and the narrowing of science and scholarship." A thought-provoking and rather disturbing read.