Title: How are Academic Age, Productivity and Collaboration Related to Citing Behavior of Researchers?
References are an essential component of research articles and therefore of scientific communication. I will present a study in which I investigated citing behavior at macro (whole field) and meso (categories of authors within a field) levels in five diverse fields (astronomy, mathematics, robotics, ecology and economics) based on 213,756 articles published in core journals of these fields. The study focuses on the act of citing and not the consequences of citing (which have been extensively studied so far). The main aim is to establish, for authors belonging to five disciplines, the relationships between the characteristics of these authors (academic age, productivity, and collaboration) and their citing behavior as manifested through the number and age of references and re-citation practices. At the macro level I will show that: (a) there is 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) that there is an increase, in all fields, in the use of foundational references since the 1980s, with no obvious change in citing patterns associated with the introduction of the Internet. Contrary to some previous findings and expectations I show 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.
Posted October 15, 2012