Citation Distributions in High Energy Physics

John Suppe suppe at PRINCETON.EDU
Wed Nov 20 21:09:18 EST 2002

There is a significant new paper filed earlier this month at the physics e-
print archive ( by S. Lehmann et al. dealing with the "Citation
distributions in high-energy physics" based on data from the SPIRES database.
They show that theory, experiment and phenomenology have nearly identical
distributions within high-energy physics. The data are qualitatively similar
to the ISI data for all of science shown by S. Redner (1998), but the
interpretations are perhaps more insightful.

{S. Redner. How popular is your paper? an emperical study of the citation
distribution. European Physics Journal B, 4:131-4, 1998.}

S. Lehmann et al. indicate that a single power-law distribution does not fit
the data but a double power-law distribution does, composed of one dominated
by no-longer cited papers and a second distribution dominated by still
actively cited papers.  Additionally they indicate that the most highly cited
papers receive fewer than expected citations because they reach canonical
status (a point that others have made).

The most quotable quote is "The picture which emerges is thus a small number
of interesting and significant papers swimming in a sea of "dead" papers."

       Title: Citation Distributions in High Energy Physics
       Authors: S. Lehmann, B. Lautrup, A. D. Jackson (The Niels Bohr
       Comments: 7 pages, 4 figures, 2 tables
       Subj-class: Physics and Society
pdf available at:

-- -- John Suppe,
Department of Geosciences
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Princeton University
Princeton NJ 08544-1003
(609) 258-4119 office
(609) 258-1515 lab
(609) 258-1274 fax
suppe at

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