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The lognormal distribution explains the remarkable pattern documented by characteristic scores and scales in scientometrics

Gabriel-Alexandru Vîiu

Journal of Informetrics, 2018, vol. 12, issue 2, 401-415

Abstract: Characteristic scores and scales (CSS) – a well-established scientometric tool for the study of citation counts – have been used to document a striking phenomenon that characterizes citation distributions at high levels of aggregation: irrespective of scientific field and citation window empirical studies find a persistent pattern whereby about 70% of scientific papers belong to the class of poorly cited papers, about 21% belong to the class of fairly cited papers, 6% to that of remarkably cited papers and 3% to the class of outstandingly cited papers. This article aims to advance the understanding of this remarkable result by examining it in the context of the lognormal distribution, a popular model used to describe citation counts across scientific fields. The article shows that the application of the CSS method to lognormal distributions provides a very good fit to the 70–21–6–3% empirical pattern provided these distributions are characterized by a standard deviation parameter in the range of about 0.8–1.3. The CSS pattern is essentially explainable as an epiphenomenon of the lognormal functional form and, more generally, as a consequence of the skewness of science which is manifest in heavy-tailed citation distributions.

Keywords: Citation analysis; Characteristic scores and scales (CSS); Lognormal distribution; Universality claim (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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Handle: RePEc:eee:infome:v:12:y:2018:i:2:p:401-415