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Assessing scientific research by ‘citation wake’ detects Nobel laureates’ papers

Posted December 15, 2014

Ranking scientific papers in order of importance is an inherently subjective task, yet that doesn’t keep researchers from trying to develop quantitative assessments. In a new paper, scientists have proposed a new measure of assessment that is based on the “citation wake” of a paper, which encompasses the direct citations and weighted indirect citations received by the paper. The new method attempts to focus on the propagation of ideas rather than credit distribution, and succeeds by at least one significant measure: a large fraction (72%) of its top-ranked papers are coauthored by Nobel Prize laureates.

citation wake 1

The wake scores of all papers in the Physical Review citation base from 1892 to 2009. The dashed line shows the maximal wake size at a given publication date. The “ridge” formed by the data indicates cross-references between scientific subfields. Credit: © Klosik, Bornholdt (CC by 4.0)

Ph.D. student David F. Klosik and Dr. Stefan Bornholdt at the University of Bremen have published their paper on the citation wake measure of publications in a recent issue of PLOS ONE.

As Klosik and Bornholdt explain, scientists’ practice of citing the work that influenced them in the reference list of their own publications offers a wealth of data on the structure and progress of science. The difficulty lies in interpreting the data, which is often a controversial process.

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