May 22, 2022

New Research Article: “The Geography of References in Elite Articles: Which Countries Contribute to Archives of Knowledge?”

The following article was recently published by PLOS One.


The Geography of References in Elite Articles: Which Countries Contribute to Archives of Knowledge?


Lutz Bornmann
Max Planck Society

Caroline Wagner
The Ohio State University

Loet Leydesdorff
University of Amsterdam


PLoS ONE 13(3)
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194805

Dataset Available


This study asks the question on which national “shoulders” the world’s top-level research stands. Traditionally, the number of citations to national papers has been the evaluative measures of national scientific standings. We raise a different question: instead of analyzing the citations to a countries’ articles (the forward view), we examine references to prior publications from specific countries cited in the most elite publications (the backward—citing—view). “Elite publications” are operationalized as the top-1% most-highly cited articles. Using the articles published from 2004 to 2013, we examine the research referenced in these works. Our results confirm the well-known fact that China has emerged to become a major player in science. However, China still belongs to the low contributors when countries are ranked as contributors to the cited references in top-1% articles. Using this perspective, the results do not support a decreasing trend for the USA; in fact, the USA exceeds expectations (compared to its publication share) in terms of references in the top-1% articles. Switzerland, Sweden, and the Netherlands also appear at the top of the list. However, the results for Germany are lower than statistically expected.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.