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OPLIN 4cast #412: Old, but not forgotten

Posted in 4cast

quill penA couple of weeks ago, a paper was published on, hosted by the Cornell University Library, regarding a study of how often older scholarly papers that have been digitized and put online are cited in new scholarly papers. The paper (“On the shoulders of giants,” first link below) presents data indicating that citing older papers is becoming more common recently, as more of them are available online. The paper itself cites older studies, including one of OhioLINK database usage, and briefly discusses some library tools for assessing the usefulness of older journals. You could argue that this study supports the value of libraries purchasing databases of journal articles, but you should keep in mind that the authors of the paper work for Google.

  • On the shoulders of giants: The growing impact of older articles [pdf] ( | Alex Verstak et al.)  “For most fields, retrospective digitization as well as inclusion in a broad-based search service with relevance ranking occurred in the second half of the period of study. As mentioned earlier, this is also the period that saw a larger growth in the fraction of older citations. Now that finding and reading relevant older articles is about as easy as finding and reading recently published articles, significant advances aren’t getting lost on the shelves and are influencing work worldwide for years after.”
  • Older papers are increasingly remembered—and cited (Science | John Bohannon)  “For a study to mark Google Scholar’s 10th anniversary celebration, its researchers analyzed scientific papers published between 1990 and 2013. They divided the papers into nine broad research areas and 261 subject categories. Then they compared the publication dates of the papers cited in all those papers. (Google Scholar is universally acknowledged to index more scientific documents than anyone else, but as usual, the researchers are keeping the size of their data set secret.)”
  • The extraordinary growing impact of the history of science (Medium | The Physics arXiv Blog)  “There are one or two interesting wrinkles in the data. These trends appeared in 231 out of 261 subject areas. But many of the subject areas that experienced a decline in older citations were part of two broader areas: chemical and materials sciences, and engineering. Consequently, these broad disciplines show almost no increase in old citations.”
  • Digitization is increasing the accessibility of old scientific papers, and of history (SelfAwarePatterns | Mike Smith)  “Will this make history more relevant for everyone? I think it will make history more accessible. But history has always been relevant. I wish I could say it will make people more likely to check history, but I have to admit that I doubt it. Despite the incredible amount of information available at people’s finger tips these days, I can’t say that I’ve noticed that, in general, they are really any more informed than they were before the internet.”

Articles from Ohio Web Library: