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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Mental Health - Science Policy

How Are Academic Age, Productivity and Collaboration Related to Citing Behavior of Researchers?
Published: Wednesday, November 07, 2012
Author: Staša Milojevic

by Staša Milojevic

References are an essential component of research articles and therefore of scientific communication. In this study we investigate referencing (citing) behavior in five diverse fields (astronomy, mathematics, robotics, ecology and economics) based on 213,756 core journal articles. At the macro level we find: (a) a steady increase in the number of references per article over the period studied (50 years), which in some fields is due to a higher rate of usage, while in others reflects longer articles and (b) an increase in all fields in the fraction of older, foundational references since the 1980s, with no obvious change in citing patterns associated with the introduction of the Internet. At the meso level we explore current (2006–2010) referencing behavior of different categories of authors (21,562 total) within each field, based on their academic age, productivity and collaborative practices. Contrary to some previous findings and expectations we find that senior researchers use references at the same rate as their junior colleagues, with similar rates of re-citation (use of same references in multiple papers). High Modified Price Index (MPI, which measures the speed of the research front more accurately than the traditional Price Index) of senior authors indicates that their research has the similar cutting-edge aspect as that of their younger colleagues. In all fields both the productive researchers and especially those who collaborate more use a significantly lower fraction of foundational references and have much higher MPI and lower re-citation rates, i.e., they are the ones pushing the research front regardless of researcher age. This paper introduces improved bibliometric methods to measure the speed of the research front, disambiguate lead authors in co-authored papers and decouple measures of productivity and collaboration.
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