The impact factor's Matthew Effect: A natural experiment in bibliometrics

  • Larivière V
  • Gingras Y
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Abstract

Since the publication of Robert K. Merton's theory of cumulative advantage in science (Matthew Effect), several empirical studies have tried to measure its presence at the level of papers, individual researchers, institutions, or countries. However, these studies seldom control for the intrinsic “quality” of papers or of researchers—“better” (however defined) papers or researchers could receive higher citation rates because they are indeed of better quality. Using an original method for controlling the intrinsic value of papers—identical duplicate papers published in different journals with different impact factors—this paper shows that the journal in which papers are published have a strong influence on their citation rates, as duplicate papers published in high-impact journals obtain, on average, twice as many citations as their identical counterparts published in journals with lower impact factors. The intrinsic value of a paper is thus not the only reason a given paper gets cited or not, there is a specific Matthew Effect attached to journals and this gives to papers published there an added value over and above their intrinsic quality. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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Authors

  • Vincent Larivière

  • Yves Gingras

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