Issue 21 – January 2011


Children of the (scientific) revolution: a bibliometric perspective on Kuhnian paradigm shifts

In the 1960s philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn argued that science moves forward through revolutionary paradigm shifts. Research Trends takes a bibliometric look at the influence of a classic paradigm shift: Einstein’s ideas on gravity, space and time.

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In 1962, Thomas Kuhn, a physicist turned philosopher and historian of science, published the landmark book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions1. At the time, the dominant view held that scientific progress is a continuous process of accumulating new facts and devising novel theories to explain them.

Kuhn argued for a radically discontinuous alternative in which periods of normal science — when new knowledge is generated and integrated into existing theories — are periodically interrupted by periods of revolutionary science. During revolutionary phases, new facts emerge that do not fit into the existing scientific framework, leading to a revision of fundamental scientific concepts and a replacement of the old framework — or paradigm — with a new one that is typically incompatible with what went before. The Kuhnian idea of paradigm shifts soon entered popular use, and a number of paradigm shifts have been identified by Kuhn and others.

Yet are paradigm shifts genuinely new beginnings, changing the landscape of science? In this article we look at one of the most famous paradigm shifts in science and ask: what can bibliometrics tell us about whether the paradigm shift has influenced the scientific landscape?

Newton, Einstein and a mysterious attraction

Sir Isaac Newton, in his law of universal gravitation, defined gravity as a force attracting one object to another, the strength of which depended on the masses of the objects and the distance separating them. Newton’s law was widely lauded as it explained many, if not quite all, observable gravity-related phenomena.

All this was to change in 1915 — over 200 years after Newton published his groundbreaking work — when Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity. The theory proposed that gravity is not a force but the result of curvature in spacetime caused by objects that have mass. Einstein, in short, redefined gravity — a fundamental physical phenomenon — by reference to a new set of concepts, fitting Kuhn’s description of a paradigm shift.

Not if, but when

For many years general relativity was a curiosity rather than a key feature of mainstream physics. By the middle of the 20th century new methods had made the dense mathematics of general relativity more accessible, and the theory began to make an impression on the scientific community. A search in the Scopus database confirms that the number of articles published in scientific journals associated with the keyword “general relativity” began to increase rapidly during the 1960s, and the strong growth trend continues to the present day (see Figure 1).

Fig 1

Figure 1 – Numbers of scientific articles associated with the keywords “general relativity” and “black hole/black holes” published each year in Physical Review journals. Source: Scopus.

The paradigm shift of general relativity was also responsible for a number of scientific new beginnings. Take the concept of black holes — stellar bodies so massive that even light cannot escape their gravitational clutches — which can be traced to the writings of Cavendish and LaPlace in the 18th century2. For many years black holes received little research attention, in part because they were so puzzling. According to Newton, gravity acts between two bodies that have mass — but light has no mass, so how can light be pulled towards a black hole?

With gravity redefined under general relativity, interest in black holes underwent a rebirth. A Scopus search shows that the number of scientific articles associated with the terms “black hole” or “black holes” started to grow rapidly from 1970 onwards, closely following the burst of interest in general relativity (see Figure 1). Many of the papers that defined black hole research in the early days continue to be highly cited 40 years later — for example, Christodoulou’s 1970 paperReversible and irreversible transformations in black-hole physics” was cited 62 times between 2005 and 2009 (Source: Scopus).

General relativity is also shaping the scientific landscape in a more subtle and far-reaching way. The Global Positioning System (GPS) uses extremely accurate clocks in satellites to provide precise location data anywhere on Earth. General relativity tells us that time, space and gravity are linked, so that clocks orbiting the Earth at high speed in a low-gravity environment experience time differently than clocks on Earth, causing inaccuracies in GPS. Fortunately, general relativity theory provides the means of correction, producing location measurements that are accurate to within a meter. A Scopus search shows that the number of documents published each year that are associated with the term “global positioning system” has grown rapidly since the system was established in 1973 (see Figure 2). Furthermore, GPS is an enabling technology that is driving research in a huge range of subject areas – simply searching for the keyword “Global Positioning System” in Scopus returns scientific articles on topics that range from human behavior to plate tectonics, and epidemiology to meteorology (Source: Scopus).

Fig 2

Figure 2 – Number of scientific articles associated with the keyword “global positioning system” published each year across the range of scientific journals. Source: Scopus.

Scientific revolution

The emergence of general relativity was a true scientific paradigm shift, in which the long-respected laws of Newtonian physics were replaced with a new set of concepts. Although general relativity remained a scientific curiosity for many years, searches in the Scopus bibliographic database show how the Einsteinian paradigm eventually became part of mainstream science, and the timescale over which the ripples of this paradigm shift reached related fields, eventually leading to novel research on distantly related topics such as GPS.

Further reading:

1. Kuhn, T.S. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. University of Chicago Press.
2. Hawking, S.W., Israel, W. (1987) 300 Years of Gravitation. Cambridge University Press.
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What’s in a name? Journal rebranding and its consequences on citations

Academic journals need to move with changing times and audiences, and sometimes this means renaming themselves. Research Trends examines the effects this has on the citation of papers in rebranded journals.

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Companies invest millions in establishing brand identity, and often just as much to rebrand themselves to reach new customers. Although they operate on more limited budgets, academic journals are in principle not very different. There can be several reasons why a journal opts for a new image through a title change1; a fundamental transformation, such as a merger with another journal or split into different publications, is often a compelling reason for a new title. More incremental adjustments, such as a change of editor or publisher, or a shift in the journal’s scope, audience, or frequency of publication can also explain rebranding efforts. More recently, changes in publication format — such as a move to an electronic version instead of, or in parallel with, a print version — has also been identified as a reason for journals to rebrand themselves. However, a journal title change can have various implications for the whole academic community1, and more often than not such rebranding is perceived negatively2.

When confusion reigns

A journal title change may be confusing to librarians, readers and authors, and can therefore result in a loss of the continuity that well-known journal brands have established. This can have serious bibliometric consequences on impact metrics: it was recently found that the negative effect of a journal title change can be bibliometrically felt at the journal level for three to four years3.

This is corroborated by Research Trends’ own case study of citations and references for 10 journals that changed title in 2000. Anecdotal evidence gleaned through reference lists suggests that journal title changes can indeed lead to erroneous references from authors and a “loss” of citations by those indexing services matching citations to journal titles only, which may struggle to assign them to their intended source accurately.

Erroneous citations and references were found for all 10 journals that changed title in 2000; for most of them even in articles published in the journals themselves in years around the title change. For instance, a 1999 article from one title was correctly referenced as being published under the old journal title 30 times, but incorrectly referred to as being published under the new title 5 times. In another journal, one article even contained one correct reference to an article published under the old journal title three years prior to the change, but also one incorrect reference to an article as having been published under the new title, (despite the article in question having been published a full year prior to the title change).

The genetics of error

Such erroneous citations can then snowball through the scientific communities, as found in a recent study that drew an analogy between the transmission of erroneous references and genetic mutations in biology: just as genetic mutations are passed on from parent to offspring, so too are bibliometric “mutations” passed on from researcher to researcher as they draw on previous citation formats in their own work, and spread the erroneous form4. This could partly explain the lengthy bibliometric impact of a journal title change3. As always in situations where confusion is likely, the best safeguard is clear communication and diligent checking by all those interested in preserving a reliable and trusted scholarly journal archive.


[1]. Monroe Foggin, C. (1992) “Title changes: another view”, Serials Librarian, Vol. 23, issue 1–2, pp. 71–83.
2. Afes, V.B., Wrynn, P.E. (1993) “Biomedical journal title changes: reasons, trends, and impact”, Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, Vol. 1, issue 1, pp. 48–53.
3. Tempest, D. (2005) “The effect of journal title changes on impact factors”, Learned Publishing, Vol 18, issue 1, pp. 57–62.
4. Specht, C.G. (2010) “Opinion: Mutations of citations”, The Scientist News
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A rebirth of science in Islamic countries?

Islamic scholars have historically been at the forefront of advances in the natural and mathematical sciences, while lagging behind the West in the past century. Research Trends looks at whether Islamic science is poised for a return to greatness.

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The Islamic Golden Age — a period that spanned the 7th to the 13th centuries A.D. — saw a flourishing of scholarship in the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, which at their greatest extent stretched across North Africa and the Middle East. Contrary to traditional views of Islamic science in this era as a mere preserver of ancient knowledge from Greek and Roman sources, the Golden Age is now understood by scholars to have laid the foundations of modern science hundreds of years before the Scientific Revolution that began in Europe in the 16th century. The Islamic Golden Age produced important empirical discoveries in optics, astronomy, chemistry, mathematics (including the invention of algebra) and medicine — and Muslim doctors even invented a form of medical peer review, in which visiting physicians filed their patient case notes with a panel of local doctors, who then reviewed the standard of care.

Shifting sands: Reawakening a scholarly tradition

The Golden Age eventually ended as a result of instability brought about by the Crusades from the West and Mongol invasions from the East. After centuries in the doldrums, is it now possible that a new wind has begun to blow in favor of “Islamic science” (that is, scientific research originating from the “Islamic world”; see below)?

The map of the Islamic world has shifted since the days of the Caliphs. Since 1969, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has represented the interests of self-identifying Muslim nations of the world. Membership currently stands at 57 countries, and for the purposes of this article these will be considered as defining the modern Islamic world.

In the Golden Age, Baghdad was the political capital and seat of learning of the Abbasid Caliphate. At its intellectual heart was the “House of Wisdom”. This library and translation institute was destroyed in the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1238, during which priceless manuscripts were thrown into the River Tigris in such quantities that the waters were said to have run black with the ink from their pages.

Today, Baghdad remains the center of scientific production in Iraq, with the University of Baghdad accounting for almost 20% of the 1,281 articles produced in Iraq in the period 2004–08. However, today’s premier knowledge-producing institute across all OIC countries is the University of Tehran in Iran, with well over 1,500 articles published in the journal literature covered in Scopus. Although only inaugurated in 1934, the University of Tehran draws on a tradition of higher education stretching back over many centuries.

Iranian science in focus

Of all of the OIC countries, Iran best exemplifies the renewed spirit of scientific enquiry (as previously featured in Research Trends in December 2009). Indeed, measures of both input and output into the research system are showing very positive trends: Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) rose from 0.55% to 0.67% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between 2001 and 2006, ranking it among the strongest performers in the OIC on this statistic in recent years (see Table 1).

Country Year GERD as a percentage of GDP
Tunisia 2005 1.02
Turkey 2007 0.72
Pakistan 2007 0.67
Iran 2006 0.67
Morocco 2006 0.64
Malaysia 2006 0.64
Mozambique 2006 0.53
Uganda 2007 0.39
Sudan 2005 0.29
Kyrgyzstan 2007 0.23
Egypt 2007 0.23
Kazakhstan 2008 0.22
Azerbaijan 2007 0.17
Burkina Faso 2007 0.11
Senegal 2005 0.09
Kuwait 2007 0.09
Algeria 2005 0.07
Tajikistan 2007 0.06
Indonesia 2005 0.05
Saudi Arabia 2007 0.05

Table 1 — GERD as a percentage of GDP for selected OIC countries in most recent year for which data are available. Source: UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Science & Technology Reports.

In terms of output, Iran has progressed from a low base of publications in the international journal literature of just 5,034 in 1996 to 20,244 in 2008. This 18-fold relative increase outstrips that of any other country in the OIC (see Figure 1). Moreover, Iran has matched this increase in output with an increase in field-weighted citation impact over the same period, as have several other OIC member states (see Figure 2).

Fig 1

Figure 1 — Publication output (articles, reviews and conference proceedings only) for selected OIC countries, indexed to output in 1996. Source: Scopus.

Fig 2

Figure 2 — Field-weighted impact for selected OIC countries calculated on five-year periods ending in the years shown (that is, 2008 represents publications and citations in the period 2004–08 inclusive). Field-weighted impact accounts for differing citation practices between different fields of research and the relative spread of a country’s activity in these fields, and is relativized to a world aggregate of 1.00. Source: Scopus.

Collaboration between Islamic countries

In 2010, The Royal Society published a landmark report entitled “A new golden age? The prospects for science and innovation in the Islamic world”. Drawing on the Society’s extensive network of Fellows and partners worldwide, this report provides an evidence-based exploration of the current status of research in OIC states (also including publication and citation data from Scopus). It concludes that “[T]here is much to suggest that a new renaissance of Islamic world science could be occurring. And there are also many challenges. If the Islamic world is to again prosper and flourish, far greater investment — in people, cultural attitudes as well as in physical and intellectual infrastructure — must be encouraged. It must also be underpinned by greater international outreach and collaboration.”

On the issue of outreach and collaboration, there is evidence that the OIC is starting from a reasonable base of collaborative publication among member states in the journal literature, as Figure 3 shows. In the figure, lines join countries with collaborative ties, and the thickness of the lines reflect the proportion of a nation’s total output that is produced in partnership with the other country. Lines that run clockwise out of a country are indicative of the proportion of that country’s total output that is produced in partnership with the target country. For example, Turkey and Azerbaijan share a strong collaborative relationship as indicated by their proximity on the map, but this connection is relatively stronger for Azerbaijan (with a thick line running clockwise from Azerbaijan to Turkey) than for Turkey (with a thin line running clockwise from Turkey to Azerbaijan), since Turkey also collaborates with several other counties on the map).

This network analysis reveals hubs of collaboration, such as Egypt, and less connected outliers, such as Iran and the Kazakhstan–Uzbekistan pairing. Broadly speaking, the OIC nations collaborate along geopolitical lines, but the map throws up some interesting connections. For instance, the linkage between Pakistan and Cameroon, which forms a bridge between the African OIC members and the rest of the map, consists of just 45 papers published in the period 2004–08, 34 of which were written by Professor Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary at the University of Karachi and various co-authors at the University of Yaoundé I (principally on medicinal/natural products chemistry of indigenous West African plants). This example highlights an important point: scientific collaboration is frequently driven by the efforts and personalities of individual researchers, and not by governmental or international scientific organizations.

Fig 3

Figure 3 Collaboration map of selected OIC countries in the period 2004–08 inclusive. Collaborative patterns between countries are represented based on numbers of jointly authored research papers (with a threshold of 25 papers). The data were visualized in Gephi using the Force Atlas algorithm, which treats the network of lines as a system of interconnected springs and seeks to satisfy the tension of all lines simultaneously in a 2-D rendering; as such, countries sharing a collaborative relationship tend to group together, while those that do not are placed further apart. Source: Scopus.

Dame Louise Johnson FRS, University of Oxford and Chair of the Royal Society’s Advisory Group on the Atlas of Islamic World Science and Innovation comments: “There are a number of developments taking place across the Islamic world that reinforce the potential for an expansion in the capabilities for science and innovation. The identification and characterisation of natural products with beneficial properties for medicine and industry is one such area.  Working with partners from across the Islamic world, the Atlas of Islamic World Science and Innovation seeks to provide a robust analysis of the potential opportunities and challenges facing science across the Islamic world. This project will also explore and promote new opportunities for partnership and exchange, ideals that were key to the flourishing of science in the first ‘golden age’.”

Further reading:

Al-Khalili, J. “When Baghdad was centre of the scientific world”, The Guardian (26 September 2010).
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“Sleeping Beauties” or delayed recognition: when old ideas are brought to bibliometric life

The term “Sleeping Beauty” was first used in a bibliometric context by Professor Anthony F.J. van Raan in 20041, extending the concept of delayed recognition originally discussed by Dr. Eugene Garfield in 1970 and 19802,3 and analyzed by Professor Wolfgang Glänzel in 20034. Sleeping Beauties are articles which are very scarcely cited in the immediate […]

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The term “Sleeping Beauty” was first used in a bibliometric context by Professor Anthony F.J. van Raan in 20041, extending the concept of delayed recognition originally discussed by Dr. Eugene Garfield in 1970 and 19802,3 and analyzed by Professor Wolfgang Glänzel in 20034. Sleeping Beauties are articles which are very scarcely cited in the immediate years following their publication, but then go on to become highly cited. Van Raan’s analysis of more than one million 1988 papers led to the “Grand Sleeping Beauty Equation”. This equation enables various calculations, such as the number of Sleeping Beauties of a given “sleeping time” (that is, the number of papers in a low-citation period of defined length); the number of papers of a given “sleep intensity” (where “deep sleep” is defined as less than one citation per year on average, and “lighter sleep” as one to two citations per year); and the “awake intensity”, which reflects the number of citations per year in the four years after the low-citation period or “sleep” has ended.

To sleep, perchance to dream…

As several studies have shown, Sleeping Beauties do not conform to the normal or expected citation distribution; as such, they are an exception to the “cumulative advantage” bibliometric rule originally described by Derek de Solla Price5. Interestingly, the distinctive nature of Sleeping Beauties seems to hold true when all citations are taken into account6, when author self-citations are excluded7, or when only journal self citations are considered8. A notable case was described in the intra-journal study by Professor Redner8 as follows: “It is worthwhile to emphasize the extreme nature of a famous paper in physics by Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen (EPR) in Physical Review in 19359. This paper questioned the underpinnings of quantum mechanics. While it was acknowledged to be a conceptually important paper (I learned about this paper 40 years ago when I first studied quantum mechanics), it remained mostly uncited until experimental techniques had developed in the late 80s and early 90s to the point where some of the predictions of the EPR paper could be meaningfully tested. In fact the average age of citations to the EPR paper (more than 60 years) is the largest of any paper in all of Physical Review with more than 30 citations.”

The relative scarcity of Sleeping Beauties was also confirmed by Research Trends’ own investigation: from the 20,000 most-cited 1996 research journal articles (114 or more citations at end November 2010), there were only 15 “lightly Sleeping Beauties”, defined as publications that were cited once or less each year in the five years following their publication, and two Sleeping Beauties, defined as publications that were cited once to twice a year in the eight years following their publication (see Figure 1). Interestingly, only one paper fulfils both criteria.

Fig 1 – Average citation rate of the 15 “lightly Sleeping Beauties” and the citation rate of the two Sleeping Beauties identified among the 20,000 most-cited 1996 research journal articles.

Figure 1 – Average citation rate of the 15 “lightly Sleeping Beauties” and the citation rate of the two Sleeping Beauties identified among the 20,000 most-cited 1996 research journal articles. Source: Scopus.


Awakening the Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties can reflect premature discoveries that the broader scientific community is not ready to recognize as a breakthrough at the time the research is published. In other cases, a particular scientific subtopic may fall out of fashion only for its popularity to soar years later — a phenomenon that speaks to the nature of science as a consensus endeavor. In some cases, however, Sleeping Beauties could simply be awakened by chance10.

Professor van Raan observed: “It is our experience in the application of bibliometric methods in research evaluation that on quite a few occasions, scientists claimed that one or more of their publications will not be picked up for a while, as they consider themselves as being ‘ahead of time’. I always call this the ‘Mendel syndrome’ [after Gregor Mendel, who demonstrated that genetic inheritance of traits obey certain laws but the significance of this was only recognised some 15 years after his death]. So the search for Sleeping Beauties is not just an exotic whim, but a necessity in order to have an answer to Mendel-like claims in terms of probability, field specificities, etc. At the same time, it is fascinating to find the prince who awakens the sleeping beauty and why this happens.”

The authors of the Sleeping Beauties unearthed by Research Trends’ analysis comment:

Malfliet, W., Hereman

Dr Hereman

Malfliet, W., Hereman, W. “The tanh method: II. Perturbation technique for conservative systems”, Physica Scripta

Citations: 150

Dr Hereman: "This article is the second piece of a two-part research paper11,12 on the hyperbolic tangent (tanh) method, which is a mathematical technique to find exact and approximate solutions to nonlinear differential equations. Dr. Malfliet and I expected that our straightforward method would be noticed immediately. However, it took several years before other research groups started successfully applying the method to nonlinear problems of relevance to mathematics, physics, and engineering.

The delay might be due to the initial lack of access of some researchers, such as Chinese scholars, to the Western research literature, and the limited access to expensive computer algebra systems (like Maple and Mathematica). Indeed, the availability of symbolic software13 to automate the tanh method helped popularize our work. Finally, several generalizations of our method have recently been published with credit given to our original research. Some of these extensions are generating debate, which in turn leads to additional citations of our 1996 publications in Physica Scripta."

Tretmans, J.

Dr. Tretmans

Tretmans, J. “Test generation with inputs, outputs and repetitive quiescence”, Software-Concepts and Tools

Citations: 141

Dr. Tretmans: "First, the paper was published in a journal which, I think, is not often read by software testers or the model-based testing community. It was a special issue devoted to TACAS 1996 (LNCS 1055), for which I was invited to produce an updated version of this conference publication. Being not that often read by the software testers means, I guess, that people must be indirectly informed about existence of the article for example via other articles (including my own later publications) that refer to it. This might take some time. A second reason might be that in those days research on software testing appeared very often on (small) workshops or symposia, the proceedings of which do not occur in citation indices. A last reason that I can think of is that the paper is rather theoretical, more theoretical than the average paper in the area. In 1999 we published a paper14 describing a tool implementation of the test generation algorithm and usage of this tool. My impression is that after this publication the interest in the underlying theory increased, and consequently the number of citations."

Lou, Y., Ni, W.-M. “Diffusion, self-diffusion and cross-diffusion”,  Journal of Differential Equations

Citations: 124

Dr. Lou: “I think that people started to pay attention to my 1996 JDE paper with Professor Ni mainly after Professor Ni published his influential survey article15 in 1998 […]. This may explain why there are very few citations between 1996 and 1999, but more citations later on."

Professor Salameh

Professor Salameh

Borowy, B.S., Salameh, Z.M. “Methodology for optimally sizing the combination of a battery bank and PV array in a Wind/PV hybrid system”, IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion

Citations: 120

Professor Salameh: “I think we were looking 15 years ahead of our time: I believed then in renewable energy as a way of the future to add/generate electricity and to reduce pollution. Now, research in renewable energy has become fashionable. All over the world, ‘renewable energy’ has become a buzz word, with even politicians jumping on the bandwagon.”

Professor Brenner

Professor Brenner

Brenner, H., Gefeller, O. “An alternative approach to monitoring cancer patient survival”, Cancer

Citations: 114

Professors Brenner and Gefeller: “It seems that the scientific community was not ready at the time of publication. We suggested a new methodological approach that — although being quite straightforward — was accepted slowly, with some initial reservations. It was not until practical applications of the methodology using cancer registry data of different origins were presented at conferences that our approach found its way into the standard repertoire of statistical methodology for cancer registry data. One other reason might be that our attitude in communicating our research results is probably somewhat more introverted and silent than the average in the field. We are, of course, very glad that the method proposed in our article is now widely recognized and used in our field of research.”

Dr. Ferson

Dr. Ferson

Ferson, S., Ginzburg L.R. “Different methods are needed to propagate ignorance and variability”, Reliability Engineering and System Safety

Citations: 114

Dr. Ferson: "The real answer is that I have no idea, but it does seem that interest in non-probabilistic Keynesian uncertainty (which is what our paper is about) cycles with big downturns in the economy. Interest in this paper seemed to increase after the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in the late 1990s, and again in the wake of the 2008 crisis, when people no longer trust their traditional methods for handling risk."

* Number of citations from initial date of publication until end of November 2010


1. Van Raan, A.F.J. (2004) “Sleeping Beauties in science”, Scientometrics, Vol. 59, No. 3, pp. 467–472.
2. Garfield, E. (1970) “Would Mendel's work have been ignored if the Science Citation Index was available 100 years ago?”, Current Contents 2, January 14, pp. 5–6.
3. Garfield, E. (1980) “Premature discovery or delayed recognition - Why?”, Current Contents 21, May 26, pp. 5–10.
4. Glänzel, W., Balázs, S., Thijs, B. (2003) “Better late than never? On the chance to become highly cited only beyond the standard bibliometric time horizon”, Scientometrics, Vol. 58, No. 3, pp. 571–586.
5. de Solla Price, D.J. (1976) “A general theory of bibliometric and other cumulative advantage processes”, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, Vol. 27, pp. 292–306.
6. Glänzel, W., Garfield, E. (2004) “The Myth of Delayed Recognition”, The Scientist, Vol. 18, No. 11, p. 8.
7. Costas, R., van Leeuwen, T.N., Van Raan, A.F.J. (2010) “Is scientific literature subject to a ‘sell-by-date’? A general methodology to analyze the ‘durability’ of scientific documents”, Journal of the American Society for Information Science & Technology, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 329–339.
8. Redner, S. (2005) “Citation Statistics from 110 years of Physical Review”, Physics Today, June, pp. 49–54.
9. Einstein, A., Podolsky, B., Rosen, N. (1935) “Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality be Considered Complete?", Physical Review, Vol. 47, No. 10, pp. 777–780.
10. Burrell, Q.L. (2005), “Are "sleeping beauties" to be expected?”, Scientometrics, Vol. 65, No. 3, pp. 381–389.
11. Malfliet, W., Hereman, W. (1996) "The tanh method: I. Exact solutions of nonlinear evolution and wave equations", Physica Scripta, Vol. 54, No. 6, pp. 563–568.
12. Malfliet, W., Hereman, W. (1996) “The tanh method: II. Perturbation technique for conservative systems”, Physica Scripta, Vol. 54, No. 6, pp. 569–575.
13. Baldwin, D., Göktaş, Ü., Hereman, W., Hong, L., Martino, R.S., Miller, J.C. (2004) "Symbolic computation of exact solutions expressible in hyperbolic and elliptic functions for nonlinear PDEs", Journal of Symbolic Computation, Vol. 37, No. 6, pp. 669–705.
14. Tretmans, J. et al. IFIP International Conference on Testing of Communicating Systems 12
15. Ni, W.M. (1998) "Diffusion, cross-diffusion and their spike-layer steady states", Notices AMS, Vol. 45, pp. 9–18.
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The woman formerly known as…

Women have traditionally adopted their husband’s surname after marriage. Research Trends explores the citation confusion this can lead to for married researchers who take on a new surname.

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“A woman who took her partner’s name or a hyphenated name was judged as more caring, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional, less competent, and less ambitious in comparison with a woman who kept her own name”, according to a recent Dutch study1. And, it gets worse: “[The monthly salary of a] job applicant who took her partner’s name […] was estimated €861.21 lower (calculated to a working life, €361,708.20)”.

Yes, there seem to be some methodological issues with the study. Only Dutch subjects were involved, so this could possibly only apply to Dutch society. There seem to be indications that “Americans overwhelmingly believe a woman should take her husband’s name”2. Moreover, how would anyone in your working life know whether the name you use is your married name or your maiden name? But still, the matter is intriguing and leads Research Trends to wonder: how about changing your name in academia? Does that have positive or negative effects, if any?

Name changes in academia: Dr Who?

In academia, research suggests that changing your name when you marry “can inhibit dissemination of published work”3. In this paper, a fictitious example is given for Kathryn E. Jones, who married and became Kathryn Dalton-Jones. Divorced, she adopted the name Kathryn Elizabeth Jones again, and after re-marrying, she became Kathryn Jones Smith. This means that she is now referenced as “Jones, K.E.”, “Dalton-Jones, K.”, “Dalton, K.J.”, “Smith, K.” and “Smith, K.J.”. This example makes abundantly clear that someone who does not know Kathryn personally would not know that all these references applied to the same person.

Clearly, this is also a problem for citation databases such as Scopus. How can any database calculate, for instance, the right h-index (a metric to evaluate an individual’s scientific performance, combining output numbers and citation counts) for the hypothetical Kathryn? Difficulties in assessing one’s performance might easily have harmful consequences for job applications, tenure track consideration or grant evaluations.

There are several solutions to this problem. The obvious one would be to keep one’s maiden name. As mentioned on the blog Sciencewomen4, “It is much easier to explain that you publish under your old name than to get other people’s literature searches to calculate the right h-index for you if your name is not stable”. Or, as another commenter adds: “I know several people who publish and attend conferences as Dr. Nee but are otherwise known as Mrs. Husbandname — does make life easier for [indexing services].” Personally, I was given the same advice when I got married, so for professional purposes I use my maiden name and in personal circumstances my married name.

Setting the record straight

However, if there are very strong reasons to take the husband’s name, then there are of course other solutions available. One would be to simply list on résumés and websites that in period X, publications appeared under name x and in period Y under name y. There is nothing wrong with this, but it creates more work for other people to calculate h-indices or gather comprehensive output lists. It makes it difficult to be sure that they will always have complete information when it comes to your publication record. In the media, there has also been mention of an author ID system that would make these notes unnecessary, but such a system does not yet exist5.

Another idea would be to go to and make sure that the system knows which separate author profiles are actually one and the same (namely yours). Scopus already makes use of powerful algorithms to group papers together in author and affiliation profiles. Currently, from November 2010 to January 2011, a project is being carried out to improve the precision and clarity of Scopus Author Profile data. As sophisticated as these algorithms may be, cases like Kathryn’s make it a challenge to associate publications to the right author and to ensure that profiles are comprehensive. Manual review will always be needed to make the profiles even better.

So how does this work? When performing an author search in Scopus, you will see a list appear of possible hits to your search. Select the two or more that you would like to merge and hit the ‘give feedback’ button. This will allow you to send any comments on these profiles that you may have. Even though this may take some time to do, it will be worth it in the end when evaluation will be done and people can actually base their evaluation on the proper and complete data.


1. Noordewier, M.K., van Horen, F., Ruys, K.I. & Stapel, D.A. (2010) “What’s in a name? 361.708 euros: The effects of marital name change”, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 32, No.1, pp. 17–25.
2. Rampell, C. “Women, work and name change”, The New York Times (14 April 2010).
3. Tescione, S.M. (1998). “Research News and Comment: A Woman’s Name: Implications for Publication, Citation, and Tenure”, Educational Researcher, Vol. 27, No. 8, pp. 38–42.
4. Pawley, A. “What name should I publish under?”, Sciencewomen Blog (12 June 2009).
5. Editorial (2009). “Credit where credit is due”, Nature Vol. 462, No. 7275, p. 825.
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Did you know

Frankenstein, or the rebirth of science through literature

Sarah Huggett
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein1, one of the most compelling tales of gothic horror, has recently been described as “perhaps the most famous work or medical science fiction”2. Although references to specific methods are veiled in the text, the late-18th and early 19th centuries were thriving with scientific advances — in particular the birth of neuroscience and the emergence of sensational experimentation on the effects of electricity on neuromuscular function, which no doubt inspired Shelley to write her gruesome story. The imprint of science on literature has long been recognized through the literary genre of Science Fiction, but it is interesting to note that science can even claim to be “stranger than fiction”: a search in Scopus for this phrase in titles, abstracts, and keywords returns 58 papers spanning from 1859 to 2010.

[1] Shelley, M. (1818) Frankenstein (London: Harding, Mavor & Jones).
[2] Kaplan, P.W. (2004), “Mind, brain, body, and soul: a review of the electrophysiological undercurrents for Dr Frankenstein”, Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, Vol. 21, No. 4, pp. 301–304.

  • Elsevier has recently launched the International Center for the Study of Research - ICSR - to help create a more transparent approach to research assessment. Its mission is to encourage the examination of research using an array of metrics and a variety of qualitative and quantitive methods.