99.9% of scientists are being forgotten after 20 years

The estimate in the last LJ magazine 07/2017 (Stephan Feller, “Jenseits des Hamsterrads”, p6) was probably too optimistic giving a figure of 90%. But when looking at some scholarly papers my estimate looks more accurate. Citation amnesia has been described some 6 years ago as “A Systematic Examination of the Citation of Prior Research in Reports of Randomized, Controlled Trials”

In reports of RCTs published over 4 decades, fewer than 25% of preceding trials were cited, comprising fewer than 25% of the participants enrolled in all relevant prior trials. A median of 2 trials was cited, regardless of the number of prior trials that had been conducted. Research is needed to explore the explanations for and consequences of this phenomenon. Potential implica-tions include ethically unjustifiable trials, wasted resources, incorrect conclusions, and unnecessary risks for trial participants.

A more recent paper on “Attention decay in science” showed

this decay can be described by an exponential or a power law behavior, as in ultradi usive processes, with exponential tting better than power law for the majority of cases. The decay is also becoming faster over the years, signaling that nowadays papers are forgotten more quickly.