, Volume 96, Issue 3, pp 937-940

First online:

A new Price’s estimate on the size of scientific specialties based on scientific community structure

  • Alex De VisscherAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, and Centre for Environmental Engineering Research and Education (CEERE), Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary Email author 

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Price argued that the average scientific specialty consists of about 100 scientists, publishing an average 100 articles each during their career. Wray recently attempted to revise the number of scientists in a specialty based on the information that the average scientist publishes only 3.5 papers during their career. However, his final estimate, between 250 and 600 scientists, does not support Price’s idea that a specialty fills about 10,000 articles, unless the ad hoc assumption is made that nearly 80 % of articles circulating in a field are from other fields. This article shows that by distinguishing between graduate students, who spend only a couple of years in a specialty, and professors, who spend their entire career in a field, the ad hoc assumption becomes unnecessary, and Wray’s number of 600 scientists turns out to be a remarkable intuitive insight that is consistent with Price’s 10,000 articles. A number of 520 scientists, or somewhat larger, is suggested for Price’s estimate.


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