- Back last summer, we had mentioned a report in Science by James Evans, Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship (doi: 10.1126/science.1150473). The paper said that as more and more scientific journals became available 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. This result seemed a bit surprising to Bee and me.
Now, the Science issue of 2 January 2009 prints a few letters in reaction to this paper (unfortunately, subscription required), and comments by James Evans.
For example, K. Brad Wray suggests that we may find that scientists' narrower focus on the literature is a good sign, as in science, relatively few papers affect subsequent scholarship, and scientists may be spending less time reading literature that is extraneous to their research.
Yves Gingras, Vincent Larivière and Éric Archambault question the result as such, claiming that the conclusions are not warranted by Evans's data. Based on their own analysis (arXiv:0809.5250v1), they argue that Evens' conclusions reflect a transient phenomenon related to recent access to online publications which they know from disciplines in which online access has been available the longest (such as nuclear physics and astrophysics), and that researchers are increasingly relying on older science, and citations are increasingly dispersed across a larger proportion of papers and journals.
Christopher S. Von Bartheld and Shaun P. Collin point out that current citation indices do not distinguish the purposes of citations, which may serve as confirmation, refutation, background, technical details, or another role, and that expanding the range of papers known to authors [via online access], a more complete grasp of current literature helps them to select more appropriate citations. Taking this into account, they argue, trends toward fewer citations may be a positive development.
- In Physics Today, correspondence by readers is freely available online. In the January issue, Robert A. Putnam makes the interesting observation that the observed strength of fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background of about 1:100000 corresponds to pressure fluctuations in air, commonly noted as sound, in a crowded room, hence the cocktail party at the beginning of the universe.
The same issue contains, also freely available, an article about AdS/CFT by Igor R. Klebanov and Juan M. Maldacena, Solving quantum field theories via curved spacetimes.
- The January 2009 issue of Review of Modern Physics has articles about the The Physics of Maxwell's demon and information by Koji Maruyama, Franco Nori, Vlatko Vedral (doi: 10.1103/RevModPhys.81.1, arXiv:0707.3400), and on The electronic properties of graphene, by A. H. Castro Neto, F. Guinea, N. M. R. Peres, K. S. Novoselov and A. K. Geim (doi: 10.1103/RevModPhys.81.109, arXiv:0709.1163). Graphene is the chicken-wire single atom layer modification of carbon, where electrons behave as massless Dirac particles and show all kinds of cool stuff, for example the Klein paradox.
Now, I'll need a few more weekends to read these two papers...
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
This and That
Instead of substantial original writing, here are some links I came across over the weekend that you might also find interesting: