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Publication inflation makes work harder to find—and compare

Researchers are producing more papers than they can read, and a citation isn’t worth what it used to be, says Santo Fortunato.

The number of scientific articles published every year has been steadily growing, at a rate of 4 per cent per year. For 1960, the Web of Science database records fewer than 100,000 scientific works. For 2010, the figure exceeds 1.5 million.

A second, less well-known, expansion has taken place in the bibliography of scientific articles. The number of references is growing at a rate of 1.8 per cent per year. Combined, these two trends mean that the total number of citations doubles every 12 years.

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