Write-only articles

23 Jun

I saw this on Twitter yesterday:

About 200,000 academic journals are published in English. The average number of readers per article is 5.

I don’t know where those numbers came from, but five readers per article sounds about right.

When I was a grad student, I felt like a fraud for writing papers that I wouldn’t want to read. Only later did I realize this is the norm.You’re forced to publish frequently. You can’t wait until you think you have something worthwhile to say.

If the average academic article has five readers, most would have fewer. Since some articles have hundreds of readers, there would have to be even more with practically no readers to balance out the average.

Readership may follow something like a power law distribution. It could be that the vast majority of articles have one or two readers even though some papers have thousands of readers.

Related posts:

Wendell Berry on publish-or-perish
Nearly everyone is above average
Networks and power laws