Scientific Gems with Google


Mark Buchanan wrote a brief article in this month’s Nature Physics regarding recent work on assessing the influence of academic papers. Usually a paper is judged based on how often it is cited, leading hierarchies such as those in the SPIRES Top Cite page. The authors of “Finding Scientific Gems with Google” (physics/0604130), however, note that there are highly influential papers that are conspicuously absent from a list of top cited papers. One reason for this is that they weight all cites equally. They suggest, instead, that one should borrow the Google algorithm and weight cites from other highly-cited papers more heavily. Google does this with popular websites that link to other pages; it means more to be linked to by a popular site rather than a no-name site.

The top cited physics publication (Kohn & Sham PR 140 A1133 (1965)) is only #3 on the new ranking scheme, and the top ranked paper (Cabbibo PRL 10 531 (1963)) is 54th on the old ranking scheme. One of the more radical papers is Slater’s “The Theory of Complex Spectra,” (PR 34 1293 (1929)) which Buchanan notes is one of the foundational works of quantum mechanics, which jumps from number 1853 on the top cite ranking to number 10 on the Google-ranking.

Figure from the above paper showing the correlatoin between average G-number and average number of citations, after around order 100 cites, the number of cites no longer correlates with G-number as well as order 10.

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