Universality of citation distributions: Toward an objective measure of scientific impact
Published on Nov 11, 2008in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America9.58
· DOI :10.1073/pnas.0806977105
We study the distributions of citations received by a single publication within several disciplines, spanning broad areas of science. We show that the probability that an article is cited c times has large variations between different disciplines, but all distributions are rescaled on a universal curve when the relative indicator cf = c/c0 is considered, where c0 is the average number of citations per article for the discipline. In addition we show that the same universal behavior occurs when citation distributions of articles published in the same field, but in different years, are compared. These findings provide a strong validation of cf as an unbiased indicator for citation performance across disciplines and years. Based on this indicator, we introduce a generalization of the h index suitable for comparing scientists working in different fields.