Individual and field citation distributions in 29 broad scientific fields Articles uri icon



publication date

  • August 2018

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1751-1577

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1875-5879


  • Using an initial dataset consisting of 18.5 million distinct authors and 15 million distinct articles published in the period 2000-2016, which are classified into 29 broad scientific fields, we search for regularities at the individual level for very productive authors with citation distributions of a certain size, and for the existence of a macro-micro relationship between the skewness of a scientific field citation distribution and the characteristics of the individual citation distributions of the authors belonging to the field. Our main results are the following three. Firstly, although the skewness of individual citation distributions varies greatly within each field, their average skewness is of a similar order of magnitude in all fields. Secondly, as in the previous literature, field citation distributions are highly skewed and the degree of skewness is very similar across fields. Thirdly, the skewness of field citation distributions is essentially explained in terms of the average skewness of individual authors, as well as individuals' differences in mean citation rates and the number of publications per author. These results have important conceptual and practical consequences: to understand the skewness of field citation distributions at any aggregate level we must simply explain the skewness of the individual citation distributions of their very productive authors. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • citation distributions; individual authors; scientific fields; skewness of science