Scientists Hit Limit of Time to Read Scholarly Articles

Reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

Scientists may have hit the wall when it comes to reading articles. A 35-year trend of researchers reading an increasing number of scholarly manuscripts appears to be leveling off, accompanied by the bottoming out of time taken to read each article.

Scientists hit limit of time to read scholarly articles

Led by information scientist Dr. Carol Tenopir at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, the survey of 800 scholars found that in 2012, U.S. scientists and social scientists estimated they read, on average, 22 scholarly articles every month. Statistically, the results are no different from what was reported in the same survey given in 2005. This is the first time since the reading-habit questionnaire began 37 years ago in 1977 that scholarly article consumption hasn’t increased.

The survey defines “reading” as reviewing more than just the title or abstract of a manuscript. It doesn’t indicate whether articles are being skimmed more frequently than in the past. However, the reported time spent reading articles has deceased over the years. The most recent survey finds that the time taken to read each article appears to have bottomed out at just over 30 minutes. Researchers now report that they read more than half of their articles electronically.

Given that an increasing amount of information is available online, the survey questions themselves are becoming outdated, since it’s been assumed by communications analysts that researchers always read manuscripts in their entirety. To the contrary, data suggests that “power-browsing” digital articles is common today, with scholars scanning for specific pieces of information.

Moreover, other sources of information such as blogs, wikis and databases, are becoming increasingly important, obscuring the very definition of “scholarly article.”

The study is due to appear in the journal Learned Publishing.

Source: Nature News

About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.