More online journals, but fewer citations?

Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship, James A. Evans
Science 18 July 2008, Vol. 321. no. 5887, pp. 395 – 399

Online journals promise to serve more information to more dispersed audiences and are more efficiently searched and recalled. But because they are used differently than print—scientists and scholars tend to search electronically and follow hyperlinks rather than browse or peruse—electronically available journals may portend an ironic change for science. Using a database of 34 million articles, their citations (1945 to 2005), and online availability (1998 to 2005), I show that as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles. The forced browsing of print archives may have stretched scientists and scholars to anchor findings deeply into past and present scholarship. Searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon.

More about this article:
1. Survey Finds Citations Growing Narrower as Journals Move Online (in the same issue of Science)
2. Access to Online Journals Reduces Breadth of Citations, Study Finds (Chronicle of Higher Education)
3. Great minds think (too much) alike (The Economist)
4. Is the Internet Bad for Science? (Wired News) – with comments
5. Research Publications Online: Too Much Of A Good Thing? (ScienceDaily)