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Scientometrics in Astronomy November 6, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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Over at Orbiting Frog, Rob has posted up the slides of a recent talk he gave entitled “Astronomy in a Paperless Universe”. It shows all sorts of graphs and statistics on the influence of web-based publication platforms such as astro-ph and NASA’s Astrophysics Data System (ADS) on publications and citations.

Astro-ph is a part of the arxiv.org initiative hosted and maintained at the Cornell University Library. It’s a largely automated electronic archive that authors can send their work too – usually journal or conference proceedings papers, but sometimes also just technical notes or ideas they want to put out into the community. Rob’s slides nicely demonstrate the success of astro-ph for gaining citations for your paper.

Every day a new listing of papers goes up, and reading astro-ph in some shape or form is an important part of many scientist’s days. Many people write their own little scripts to sort or filter the day’s postings to find papers on particular topics that they’re interested in. Arxiv also has listings for many other subjects, such as physics, statistics, computer science amongst others.

The NASA ADS system is essentially a gateway and search engine for the literature in physics and astronomy. Again, an essential research tool for any astronomer.

One neat thing Rob’s presentation shows is the “astro-ph Impact Factor“, which shows how many more citations a paper in a particular journal that was posted on astro-ph prior to publication can expect to get, compared with those papers that were not listed on astro-ph. For Nature, astro-ph posted papers get on average more than 5 times the number of citations!  I guess that means not many astronomers pick up Nature anymore these days?

The science of studying science, that produces these kinds of statistics, is called “scientometrics“. So there you go, that’s your new word for today, go out and impress your mum with it. Scientometrics trivia: one of the founders of scientometrics has the fabulous name Eugene Garfield. Read about him here.

On a kind-of related note, Ars Technica writer Chris Lee published this interesting article on scientific publication last month.

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