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The law of limited excellence: publication productivity of Israel Prize laureates in the life and exact sciences

For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.

–Matthew 25:29

Abstract

The present paper extends Lotka’s theorem—which we rename as “the law of limited excellence”—while empirically modelling the scientific productivity of 46 Israel Prize laureates in the life and exact sciences—a group best described as ‘Star Scientists’. By focusing on this highly selective group we expose unequal scientific productivity even amongst Israel’s most prolific scientists. Specifically, we test the invariance of Lotka’s law by focusing attention on the extreme tail of publication distributions while empirically exploring the non-linearity of its seemingly “flat” tail. By exposing the rarity of excellence even in this extreme end of publication productivity we extend the generality of Lotka’s theorem and expose that—like a fractal—the tail of excellence behaves as the entire distribution. We end this empirical contribution by suggesting a few implications for research and policy.

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Yair, G., Gueta, N. & Davidovitch, N. The law of limited excellence: publication productivity of Israel Prize laureates in the life and exact sciences. Scientometrics 113, 299–311 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-017-2465-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-017-2465-0

Keywords

  • Scientific excellence
  • Israel Prize
  • Inequality in science
  • Lotka curve
  • Publication productivity