Global citation inequality is on the rise

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Citations are important building blocks for status and success in science. We used a linked dataset of more than 4 million authors and 26 million scientific papers to quantify trends in cumulative citation inequality and concentration at the author level. Our analysis, which spans 15 y and 118 scientific disciplines, suggests that a small stratum of elite scientists accrues increasing citation shares and that citation inequality is on the rise across the natural sciences, medical sciences, and agricultural sciences. The rise in citation concentration has coincided with a general inclination toward more collaboration. While increasing collaboration and full-count publication rates go hand in hand for the top 1% most cited, ordinary scientists are engaging in more and larger collaborations over time, but publishing slightly less. Moreover, fractionalized publication rates are generally on the decline, but the top 1% most cited have seen larger increases in coauthored papers and smaller relative decreases in fractional-count publication rates than scientists in the lower percentiles of the citation distribution. Taken together, these trends have enabled the top 1% to extend its share of fractional- and full-count publications and citations. Further analysis shows that top-cited scientists increasingly reside in high-ranking universities in western Europe and Australasia, while the United States has seen a slight decline in elite concentration. Our findings align with recent evidence suggesting intensified international competition and widening author-level disparities in science.
Original languageEnglish
Article number e2012208118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS)
Volume118
Issue number17
ISSN0027-8424
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2021

ID: 258042526