The publishing dynamics of catastrophic events



This article studies the effect that two major disasters, the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, had on the publishing world. We expect consumer publishing to concentrate on major events as they unfold. The technical and scholarly publishing world, however, is believed to progress and develop in conjunction with the growth of science, as established in bibliometric laws. Articles about these disasters were tracked in four bibliographic databases representing scholarly, technical-scholarly, technical, and consumer literature. Several analyses of the data revealed that each body of literature responds in its own way to disasters and anniversaries of events affect publishing, other than government-sponsored research. More focused databases have a more highly correlated response to disasters than broad-based databases. Comparison to two previously published studies of fast-growing literatures reveals that while some measures are consistent, disasters experience participation from a larger number of researchers with publications spread across a broader base of journal titles.