Re: Why hep-th has 40% red-links

From: Tim Brody <>
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 17:05:07 +0100

(Note: Red-links = citations to LANL pre-print reference number, e.g.
hep-th/9906001, may or may not also contain published data)

> > Tim:
> >
> >
> > "Some of my colleagues in Santa Barbara--the string theorists, for
> > example, and several of my coworkers in condensed matter theory as
> > well--insist that they don't need The Physical Review. For research
> > purposes, they don't need refereed print journals at all. They are
> > producing remarkable results this way, so I take them very seriously."
> >
> > "What they are doing is using the Los Alamos e-print archive for all of
> > their research communications. They check it every day for new
> > information. They post all their papers there, cite references by archive
> > number, use the search engine to find other papers, and need little or no
> > other publication services."
> >
> > I don't know whether "string theory" is hep-th, but it would look like a
> > credible explanation why hep-th has such high "hits" for red-links,
> > compared to hep-ph (which is a area of similar size and lineage).
> >
> > Perhaps this is a rule that can be extended to all theoretical science -
> > that theory does not demand the same level of "invisible hand" rigour
> > as more practical research.

> Stevan:
> Elite string theorists are a small, specialized group. Their numbers
> and stature are about comparable with the scale of all of science in
> the 17th/18th century, where the few practitioners world-wide (Newton,
> Leibniz, etc.) at any time could communicate their research by simply
> writing letters to one another.
> This is neither representative of research as a whole today, nor will
> it scale (in my opinion).

hep-th has 6000 authors, hep-ph has 7500 authors, with 13000 and 17000
papers respectively. The difference in the number of "red-links"
identified is respectively 40% and 20%.

This represents a large and active group within LANL, although, as you
say, the quoted article only relates to a small group this could be
representative of the larger hep-th physicists who'se overall behaviour
results in double the number of red-link citations.

What other explanation(s) could there be for for a large difference in
citation patterns?

[cue argumentative as opposed to empirical]
This behaviour does not need to scale, hep-th and hep-ph have been
virtually static in the number of deposits since 1995 (growth has come
from other areas), and the citation patterns have been relatively static
since 1998. Although these "red-link" citations could also be citing
published articles, it would appear to be the "settled" behaviour of 40%
of citations being to LANL pre-prints, surely this must be a change away
from citations in the peer-review world to citations in the e-print,
pre-print world?

> Stevan:
> Remember "Simon-says": We should definitely find out (but not
> necessarily believe) what people SAY they are doing, and why.
> We should also find out what they DO do, and what others do/say too.
> Then let's piece together the picture objectively.
> The string theorists are definitely a piece of the whole picture,
> but equally definitely not a representative microcosm of it!

hep-th and hep-ph are the most self-contained and long-standing areas of
LANL, the behaviour of HEP authors may not represent medics or computer
scientists but they may show the relative effect that instantly available,
unrefereed articles could have on the research world.

> Stevan:
> [Nor is "theory" in general the dividing line, I think, for there are
> more and less populated, more and less elite areas of theory too --
> in my (Stevan-says) opinion...]

But (feel free to correct me), hep-th is the primary digital source for
theoretical physicists, and that is where theoretical physics research is
being done.

Tim Brody
Computer Science, University of Southampton
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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