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Blog

Jockeying for position

spike.jpeg
Peak time

By Michael Banks

When submitting an article to the arXiv preprint server you might not think it matters when in the day you do it.

But according to new analysis by the server’s founder Paul Ginsparg and Asif-ul Haque from Cornell University, it does, and it could affect how many citations the paper will receive.

They looked at arXiv paper submissions between 2002 and 2004 in three categories: astrophysics (astro-ph), high energy physics – theory (hep-th) and high energy physics – phenomenology (hep-ph).

They found that papers appearing at the top of the list each day generated more citations than papers lower down.

Researchers can submit articles to arXiv at any time of the day. However, there is a cut-off point at 4pm eastern time (EST) for papers to appear on the server on the same day, which are then published at 8pm.

Articles submitted just after 4pm EST will be published the next day. The first paper to be submitted in a certain category after this cut-off time will then be top of the following day’s list.

Interestingly enough, Haque and Ginsparg see a spike in submissions to the server just after 4pm EST (see above chart for submissions to hep-ph) as physicists jostle for top position on the next day.

Physicists’ instincts for trying to land top spot are now backed up by evidence.

Haque and Ginsparg find that papers appearing in the number one position in the astrophysics category, overall, received a median number of citations 83% higher than other papers on that day.

Articles in hep-ph taking the top four places received a median number of citations 100% higher than those published in positions 5-15. For articles in hep-th it was 50% higher.

They also found that the position of the article on arXiv also affected how many full text downloads it had.

Articles taking the daily number one spot in astro-ph, hep-th and hep-ph received a median number of downloads 82%, 61% and 58% higher than that for lower positioned articles, respectively.

This means that it is good news if you are a researcher in the US itching to get the number one spot.

However, researchers in the UK would have to wait until midnight to get a chance of being top, while researchers in Japan would have to get into the office bright and early just after 8am to secure top spot.

So when you submit your next paper to the arXiv remember to keep an eye on the time.

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2 comments

  1. Joerg

    This is a follow-up study and not the first to notice this effect. It has been found and described earlier for articles appearing on arXiv:astro-ph: arXiv:0712.1037 and arXiv:0805.0307.

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