As I was browsing my Facebook mini-feed, I noticed a link that a librarian friend had posted from the Very Short List about online scholarship. There has been a study done by James A. Evans, University of Chicago, and published in the July 2008 issue of Science Magazine that says that although the ability to access scholarly scientific literature has increased reach to a broader audience, it has also in turn caused scientists to continually cite the same studies. Dr. Evans utilized Web of Science, a database to which we subscribe, to analyze over 34 million citations to come up with his conclusion (taken from the abstract):
The forced browsing of print archives may have stretched scientists and scholars to anchor findings deeply into past and present scholarship. Searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon.
Study: Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship
James A. Evans, Science Magazine