Revisiting De Solla Price: growth dynamics studies of various subjects over last one hundred years

Teli, Soumen ; Dutta, Bidyarthi


The stalwart historian of science, Derek J. De Solla Price delivered a series of lectures at Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1962, which was dedicated to discussing science and its interaction with society. The collection of these lectures was published in 1963 as a book entitled Little Science, Big Science. Here, Price empirically established that the initial exponential growth pattern of literature reaches a ceiling after a certain time span, which results a logistic growth pattern. This paper analyses Price's empirical theory on the basis of 198 articles that presented growth of literature of variant subjects published since 1913 to 2018. In all, 214 growth models were reported by the 198 articles that analysed growth of literature of more than 50 subjects. It is found that growth patterns reported by nearly 50% articles followed Price's empirical theory, i.e., exponential and logistic growth pattern while remaining 50% articles followed other growth patterns, viz., power model, linear model, etc. All growth models reported by the 198 articles were broadly categorised into five groups on the basis of statistical characteristics, viz., (exponential + logistic), growing without definite pattern (GWDP), linear, non-linear and decaying models. The null hypothesis formulated states that 214 growth models observed by different subjects described in 198 articles will follow either of the five patterns that will be guided by Bradford's Law of Bibliographic Scattering. The null hypothesis is accepted by Chi-square test. It is inferred that the distribution of different models of growth of literature is guided by Bradford's Law where the core or nucleus zone is occupied by the logistic and exponential model, i.e. Price's empirical model prevails in Bradford's nuclear (core) zone.

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