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Measuring global research activities using geographic data of scholarly article visits

Zhichao Fang (WISE Lab, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Xinhui Guo (WISE Lab, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Yang Yang (WISE Lab, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Zhongkai Yang (WISE Lab, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Qingchun Li (WISE Lab, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Zhigang Hu (WISE Lab, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)
Xianwen Wang (WISE Lab, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 7 August 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to analyse the geographical distribution of global research activities and to investigate the knowledge diffusion embodied in scientific papers.

Design/methodology/approach

The geographical summary of Frontiers articles displays the number of visits and categorizes where the visitors hail from. This study uses the records of 23,798 articles published in 16 Frontiers journals from 2007 to 2015 to analyse the geographical distribution of article visits at both country and city levels. The process of knowledge diffusion is investigated on the basis of the different visiting patterns of new and old papers.

Findings

Most article visits are concentrated around major metropolitan areas and some high-tech clusters. The top “visiting countries” include both developed countries and developing countries, and the USA and China are two major players. Publishing cities dominate article visits for new papers; as time passes, there is diffusion from the publishing cities to a broader area.

Research limitations/implications

The data on visiting for open access articles may be generated from various repositories besides the publishers’ websites; these data are ignored, as they are not significant enough to have much influence. There is also a lack of a basic theory in the data processing of outliers in the data set. In addition, only static results are given in this paper, as the data were collected on one day, for one time. A longer time period is necessary to track the dynamic diffusion process of the observations.

Practical implications

Introduction of usage data will propose a novel way to analyse research activities and track knowledge diffusion.

Social implications

The visiting data of articles offer a new way to investigate research activities at the city level in a detailed and timely manner, for the geographical distribution of research activities and the research resource allocation of a specific country to be explored.

Originality/value

This study measured the research activities of scientific papers by examining the usage data. Compared with previous studies that focused on the geographical distribution of scientific activities using publication data, citation data and even altmetrics data, usage data are at the forefront of this research. Therefore, usage data offer a fresh perspective on methodology, providing more detailed and real-time information.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research is supported by the “National Natural Science Foundation of China” (71673038, 61301227).

Citation

Fang, Z., Guo, X., Yang, Y., Yang, Z., Li, Q., Hu, Z. and Wang, X. (2017), "Measuring global research activities using geographic data of scholarly article visits", The Electronic Library, Vol. 35 No. 4, pp. 822-838. https://doi.org/10.1108/EL-10-2016-0228

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited