Information overload is a problem unique to today. Or is it?

Information overload is a problem unique to today. Or is it?
by Di Cross
Director, Research Data Science & Evaluation
Science Research Connect

“We hear more and more these days about a so-called crisis in scientific literature…There is a literal deluge of literature published each year, and it is increasing in geometric proportions.”

Information overload is a problem unique to today. Or is it?

What if there was a way to objectively and efficiently sort through the information to identify the most important topics in a scientific field? The new Research Fronts Navigator can help.

Every two months Clarivate Analytics surveys the entire scientific and social scientific literature as represented in publications indexed in the Web of Science. The most-cited papers over the past five years are identified in each field. These influential papers are then analyzed for patterns of co-citation, meaning how often papers have been cited in pairs. Now, Clarivate Analytics has made it even easier to investigate these research topics through the Research Fronts Navigator.

Analysis of co-citation patterns, introduced in 1973 by Clarivate Analytics former Chief Scientist Henry Small, is based on the references that expert authors append to their papers. The network of citations that result then reveals association between particular papers. This type of network analysis is something we rely on every day by using Google search. In fact, the Google founders cite the rationale behind the Web of Science in motivating their own work, and use examples from the academic citation network to clarify their approach. In academic literature, when multiple highly cited papers are co-cited together, clusters of closely related papers form that represent the specialty structure of science. The clusters are typically small in terms of publications and number of authors. They deal with problems and issues at the forefront of research and, as such, are called research fronts. About 9,000 research fronts are listed in each update of the Essential Science Indicators component of InCites. Research Fronts offer much for individual investigators as well as for those responsible for setting research strategies at the national and institutional level. The insights they provide on emerging topics and topics that are receiving attention also benefit funders by assisting them in making choices on which projects and researchers to support.

Built on the Research Fronts, the Research Fronts Navigator enables users to identify topics of particular interest, and then delve into the data to identify specific articles of interest, institutional affiliations of article authors, funders supporting the work, and articles reporting on subsequent advances being made in that area.

As for the quote above, however relevant it is today, it was taken from an address delivered by Eugene Garfield in 1955. Six decades ago, consumers of scientific literature were concerned about their ability to assess all the literature relevant to their research. Interestingly, Dr. Garfield’s original article conceptualizing what would become the Web of Science also references work expressing concern over the persistence of “unfounded assertions” and citation of “disputed data” – relating to reproducibility which continues to be an issue that is debated today.

If you would like more information about how the Research Fronts Navigator can be used for research management and planning, you can find more information about it here.

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