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High Impact Papers Appearing More in Non-elite Journals

A team from Google Scholar has found that non-elite journals are publishing an increasing fraction of top-cited articles.

For some 261 subjects, Google's Anurag Acharya and his colleagues examined the 10 most-cited journals and the 1,000 most-cited articles for each year from 1995 to 2012, as they report in a paper posted to arXiv.

In 1995, 149 of the top papers in one representative subject were published in non-elite journals — which the researchers defined as anything other than those 10 most-cited journals — but that number jumped 64 percent to 245 in 2013. The change, they note, was particularly profound for physics and mathematics, which had a 204 percent increase in top-cited papers being published in non-elite journals. The health and medical sciences saw a 98 percent increase.

Further, the researchers add that the overall percentage of citations to articles in non-elite journals increased from 27 percent in 1995 to 47 percent in 2013.

Acharya and his colleagues suggest that now that it's as easy to access articles in non-elite journals as elite journals, "researchers are increasingly building on and citing work published everywhere."

Hadas Shema, a library scientist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel tells ScienceInsider that "[t]heir explanation for the results is definitely sound." However, she points out the large jump in non-elite journal citations for physics and math could be due in part to the creation of the arXiv repository.