Stern RS, Arndt KA. Classic and Near-Classic Articles in the Dermatologic Literature. Arch Dermatol. 1999;135(8):948-950. doi:10.1001/archderm.135.8.948
Only a small fraction of articles published in the dermatologic literature are cited frequently. Articles cited at least 100 times are known as "citation classics" and have been previously discussed. The nature of dermatologic articles cited fewer than 100 times but still much more frequently cited than average has not been clearly elucidated.
To identify the source, authorship, and citation history of original articles published in 24 dermatologic journals that were cited more than 25 times.
We analyzed a citation database provided by the Institute for Scientific Information. We identified the journal of publication, authorship, and country of authorship for all original articles cited at least 25 times and published from 1982 to 1996 in 24 dermatologic journals.
Main Outcome Measure
Source of most frequently cited dermatologic articles.
Only 2139 (6.45%) of all original articles were cited more than 25 times. Articles published in 4 of 24 journals accounted for the most frequently cited articles. Only 18 (0.13%) of more than 13,500 first authors published at least 5 articles that were cited more than 25 times.
Few articles are cited at least 25 times, and few persons are first authors of multiple articles in the dermatologic literature cited at least that frequently.
ONLY A small fraction of all articles published in the dermatologic literature are subsequently cited in other indexed publications. Articles published in the dermatologic literature cited at least 100 times in the biomedical literature are rare and have been referred to as "citation classics."1 In addition, a larger but still select group of articles have been cited much more often than the average for all articles; these we term "near classics." In this analysis, we identify the source, authorship, and citation history of original articles published in 24 dermatologic journals from 1982 to 1996 that were cited more than 25 times. Although less than 5% of these articles are citation classics, articles cited more than 25 times are likely to represent substantial contributions to dermatology and dermatologic science.
Our citation database was obtained from the Institute for Scientific Information, Philadelphia, Pa. It includes citation information for all articles published from 1982 to 1996 in 24 journals that we identified as the principal clinical and investigative journals in dermatology (Table 1). For this analysis, we identified all original articles that were cited more than 25 times. We did not consider reviews, editorials, correspondence, or other types of articles. On the basis of these data and data for all publications for all original articles published during this period in these 24 journals (Dermatology replaced Dermatologica, but we considered them separately), we identified the sources of top-cited publications in dermatologic journals. We then determined factors associated with an article being frequently cited and compared these with articles with fewer citations.
The 33,170 original articles published in 24 dermatologic journals from 1982 to 1996 had a total of 41,949 authors. Only 2139 articles (6.45%) were cited more than 25 times, and only 102 of all original articles (0.31%) were cited 100 or more times.
For each of the 24 dermatologic journals studied, Table 1 lists the total number of original articles published and the number and percentage of published original articles cited more than 25 times. Eighteen of 24 journals had at least 1 article cited more than 25 times. More than a fifth (21.85%) of original articles published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology were cited more than 25 times. The only clinically oriented journal with more than 10% of all original articles cited more than 25 times was the Archives of Dermatology (11.47%). Close behind were the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (9.80%) and the British Journal of Dermatology (9.62%). The Archives of Dermatology had a significantly higher proportion and number of articles published cited more than 25 times than the other 2 main clinical journals (P<.05 for both comparisons). Altogether, the 4 journals with the highest proportion of articles cited more than 25 times accounted for 84% of all articles cited more than 25 times in these 24 journals. In contrast, these 4 journals accounted for less than 40% of all original articles published in these journals during the study period.
There were 1452 different first authors of the 2139 articles cited more than 25 times. Only 1 author (Brian J. Nickoloff, MD) had more than 10 articles with more than 25 citations. Only 70 (5%) authors of the more than 400 who were first authors of at least 1 article with greater than 25 citations were the first author of more than 3 such articles. Eighteen first authors of at least 5 articles—J. D. Bos, V. Falanga, J. D. Fine, W. R. Gammon, A. K. Gupta, R. J. Hay, L. H. Kligman, K. Kragballe, Y. Miyachi, W. L. Morison, B. J. Nickoloff, N. P. Sanchez, J. M. Schroder, J. Serup, R. S. Stern, H. Tagami, P. W. Wertz, and R. Willemze—were cited more than 25 times, 10 from North America, 6 from Europe, and 2 from Japan.
For the 5 countries with the greatest number of publications (United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and France), we examined the country of origin of authors and the journals in which articles with more than 25 citations were published. Many articles had authors from multiple countries. In this analysis, each country listed for 1 or more authors of an article was given credit for that article. Hence, an article with authors from multiple countries would be credited to all countries listed in the author affiliation section of the article. As noted in Table 2, the work of 1128 authors of articles cited more than 25 times was credited to the United States. Notable was the high proportion of authors from the United Kingdom of frequently cited articles that appeared in the British Journal of Dermatology (57%) compared with the proportion of authors from the United Kingdom among authors of frequently cited articles in other journals.
Dermatologists are inundated with medical information.2,3 For the 24 dermatologic journals we identified from the Institute of Scientific Information database, dermatologists have a choice of more than 2000 original articles each year.4 In addition to this literature, many dermatologic journals are not included in the Institute of Scientific Information's or the US National Library of Medicine's Index Medicus databases, usually those with more regional or local circulation. Add to this the general medical and research literature, non–peer-reviewed journals, and medical tabloids, including those with a dermatologic focus, and the amount of information available for dermatologists to consider is huge.
The relative impact of an article can be measured in many ways. None, however, is likely to accurately measure the extent to which an article has positively affected knowledge and the practice of medicine. One measure of the extent to which others active in writing medical articles have taken note of an article's findings is the number of times it is cited in subsequent articles. As previous work1- 4 has indicated, most articles are seldom cited, and few are considered citation classics. In this article, we consider not just the classics but near-classic original articles that have been cited more than 25 times.
Although overall about 1 in 16 original articles published from 1982 to 1996 was cited more than 25 times, articles published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology accounted for nearly 40% of these frequently cited articles. This journal's research focus and content differ substantially from most of the other 23 journals we reviewed, which are primarily clinically oriented. Among these 23 journals, 4.4% of original articles were cited more than 25 times, and only the Archives of Dermatology, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, and the British Journal of Dermatology had at least 9% of original articles they published during this period cited more than 25 times. Ten of the 23 journals we studied had less than 1% of published articles cited more than 25 times.
Five countries are especially important as the workplace for authors of original articles that are most frequently cited. Overall, more than half of all 2139 original articles cited more than 25 times in the dermatologic literature included at least 1 author working in the United States. Only about 6% of articles published in the principal dermatologic journals contains information that a substantial number of authors consider important enough to cite subsequently.
In previous work,4 we identified the most frequently cited authors overall and as first authors. In this article, we identify first authors who published more than 5 original articles cited more than 25 times in the primary dermatologic journals. Overall, 1452 different persons were first authors of at least 1 article cited at least 25 times. Most (72%) of these persons were authors of only 1 frequently cited article. Only 18 of more than 13,500 authors publishing articles in the most prominent dermatologic journals could point to 5 or more articles cited more than 25 times for which they were the first author.
Corresponding author: Robert S. Stern, MD, Department of Dermatology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, 330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Accepted for publication April 15, 1999.