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There Are Just Too Many

Researchers are forgetting papers more quickly, according a study from researchers from Finland and California posted at ArXiv.

Aalto University School of Science's Santo Fortunato and his colleagues examined how often clinical medicine, molecular biology, chemistry, and physics papers included in the Thomson Reuters Web of Science database were cited and how their citations changed over time. From this, they found that the citations for a paper typically grow for a few years after its publication to reach a peak, and then the citations drop off quickly. Additionally, they found that this decay is becoming even faster.

"We found that this has to do with the exponential growth in the number of publications, which inevitably accelerates the turnover of papers, due to the finite capacity of scholars to keep track of the scientific literature," the researchers add.

This, Vox notes, is like the Internet — there are a lot of stories, tweets, and cat videos out there to look at, but people's attention fades as the novelty wears off and as people have a limited capacity for new content.