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Attention Decay in Science

12 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2015  

Pietro Della Briotta Parolo

Aalto University

Raj Kumar Pan

Aalto University

Rumi Ghosh

Hewlett-Packard Laboratories

Bernardo A. Huberman

Stanford University

Kimmo Kaski

Aalto University

Santo Fortunato

Aalto University

Date Written: March 7, 2015

Abstract

The exponential growth in the number of scientific papers makes it increasingly difficult for researchers to keep track of all the publications relevant to their work. Consequently, the attention that can be devoted to individual papers, measured by their citation counts, is bound to decay rapidly. In this work we make a thorough study of the life-cycle of papers in different disciplines. Typically, the citation rate of a paper increases up to a few years after its publication, reaches a peak and then decreases rapidly. This decay can be described by an exponential or a power law behavior, as in ultradiffusive processes, with exponential fitting better than power law for the majority of cases. The decay is also becoming faster over the years, signaling that nowadays papers are forgotten more quickly. However, when time is counted in terms of the number of published papers, the rate of decay of citations is fairly independent of the period considered. This indicates that the attention of scholars depends on the number of published items, and not on real
time.

Suggested Citation

Briotta Parolo, Pietro Della and Pan, Raj Kumar and Ghosh, Rumi and Huberman, Bernardo A. and Kaski, Kimmo and Fortunato, Santo, Attention Decay in Science (March 7, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2575225 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2575225

Pietro Della Briotta Parolo

Aalto University ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
Helsinki, 00101
Finland

Raj Kumar Pan

Aalto University ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
Helsinki, 00101
Finland

Rumi Ghosh

Hewlett-Packard Laboratories ( email )

1501 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304
United States

Bernardo A. Huberman (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Palo Alto, CA 94305
United States

Kimmo Kaski

Aalto University ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
Helsinki, 00101
Finland

Santo Fortunato

Aalto University ( email )

P.O. Box 21210
Helsinki, 00101
Finland

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