The decrease in uncited articles and its effect on the concentration of citations

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Empirical evidence demonstrates that citations received by scholarly publications follow a pattern of preferential attachment, resulting in a power-law distribution. Such asymmetry has sparked significant debate regarding the use of citations for research evaluation. However, a consensus has yet to be established concerning the historical trends in citation concentration. Are citations becoming more concentrated in a small number of articles? Or have recent geopolitical and technical changes in science led to more decentralized distributions? This ongoing debate stems from a lack of technical clarity in measuring inequality. Given the variations in citation practices across disciplines and over time, it is crucial to account for multiple factors that can influence the findings. This article explores how reference-based and citation-based approaches, uncited articles, citation inflation, the expansion of bibliometric databases, disciplinary differences, and self-citations affect the evolution of citation concentration. Our results indicate a decreasing trend in citation concentration, primarily driven by a decline in uncited articles, which, in turn, can be attributed to the growing significance of Asia and Europe. On the whole, our findings clarify current debates on citation concentration and show that, contrary to a widely-held belief, citations are increasingly scattered.

This content has been updated on February 16 2024 at 8 h 53 min.