First off, this isn't strictly speaking (or loosely speaking...really) a geology paper. It does have some interesting implications for people publishing research though.
The main thrust of this article is: As researchers increasingly use electronic search engines (like georef or geoscienceworld) the body of cited literature becomes far more condensed. Essentially, people aren't citing papers published pre ~ 1990 (or when the earliest journal is available online). Apparently, we are too entranced by Christopher Lloyd driving a flying, time-traveling train to look further back than that.
The author views this as neither a good thing or a bad thing. It is just a thing. Though, he seems to advocate that researchers should stay cautious. Mainly, because this gives the scientific community appearance of reaching consensus much quicker than it used to (whether it has or not). This can, potentially, stifle new research into competing hypotheses.
By enabling scientists to quickly reach and converge with prevailing opinion, electronic journals hasten scientific consensus. But haste may cost more than the subscription to an online archive: Findings and ideas that do not become consensus quickly will be forgotten quickly.He also states that it is removing our respective links to the past. Our research is becoming much more obsessed with what is going on now, and we are tending to (unintentionally) ignore the old mainstays of our respective literature.
As deeper backfiles became available, more recent articles were referenced; as more articles became available, fewer were cited and citations became more concentrated within fewer articles. These changes likely mean that the shift from browsing in print to searching online facilitates avoidance of older and less relevant literature.There is also a bit of musing about if this might have any link to the style of research being done (especially by grad students).
Modern graduate education parallels this shift in publication - shorter in years [I contest this point:ITV] more specialized in scope, culminating less frequently in a true dissertation than an album of articles.He comments on old monographs (notably Origin of Species and the Principia) being the way research used to be published. Now (as I am sure people have stumbled upon) some of the most tantalizing titles in a search result are only abstracts from conferences. To me, this seems to make a tentative connection that the technological ADD that seems to persist in our culture today is infecting science to some extent.
He doesn't discredit the good these online search engines provide (most notably, the open access to the literature for the general public, regardless of location or time of day). Though he does have an interesting tid-bit about online article availability
Provision of one additional year of issues online for free associates with 14% fewer distinct articles cited.It is one thing to find a paper quickly online, it is another thing to look through the stacks (in search of your elusive quarry) and happily stumble upon something completely unexpected. This can lead researchers to further focus upon their (evertightening) area of expertise, and inadvertently ignore potentially complementary research, thus narrowing the scope of individual scientific endeavors.
Evans, James A., Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship. 18 July 2008 Science v. 321 no. 5887 p. 395-399