Nonuniversal power law scaling in the probability distribution of scientific citations

George J. Peterson, Steve Pressé, Ken A. Dill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

59 Scopus citations

Abstract

We develop a model for the distribution of scientific citations. The model involves a dual mechanism: in the direct mechanism, the author of a new paper finds an old paper A and cites it. In the indirect mechanism, the author of a new paper finds an old paper A only via the reference list of a newer intermediary paper B, which has previously cited A. By comparison to citation databases, we find that papers having few citations are cited mainly by the direct mechanism. Papers already having many citations ("classics") are cited mainly by the indirect mechanism. The indirect mechanism gives a power-law tail. The "tipping point" at which a paper becomes a classic is about 25 citations for papers published in the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Web of Science database in 1981, 31 for Physical Review D papers published from 1975-1994, and 37 for all publications from a list of high h-index chemists assembled in 2007. The power-law exponent is not universal. Individuals who are highly cited have a systematically smaller exponent than individuals who are less cited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16023-16027
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume107
Issue number37
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 14 2010
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cumulative advantage
  • Graph theory
  • Master equation
  • Preferential attachment
  • h-index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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