January 25, 2022

New Research Article: “Cited Half-Life of the Journal Literature”

UPDATE: Article co-author Phil Davis provides a summary/commentary in this new post on The Scholarly Kitchen.

The following research article posted to arXiv on Tuesday, April 28, 2015.


Cited Half-Life of the Journal Literature


Philip M. Davis
Independent Researcher and Publishing Consultant

Angela Cochran
Director, Journals American Society of Civil Engineers




Analyzing 13,455 journals listed in the Journal Citation Report (Thomson Reuters) from 1997 through 2013, we report that the mean cited half-life of the scholarly literature is 6.5 years and growing at a rate of 0.13 years per annum. Focusing on a subset of journals (N=4,937) for which we have a continuous series of half-life observations, 209 of 229 (91%) subject categories experienced increasing cited half-lives. Contrary to the overall trend, engineering and chemistry journals experienced declining cited half-lives. Last, as journals attracted more citations, a larger proportion of them were directed toward older papers. The trend to cite older papers is not fully explained by technology (digital publishing, search and retrieval, etc.), but may be the result of a structural shift to fund incremental and applied research over fundamental science.

Direct to Full Text Research Article (14 pages; PDF)

See Also: From Google Scholar Team: “On the Shoulders of Giants: The Growing Impact of Older Articles” (November 4, 2014)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.