Positional effects on citation and readership in arXiv



arXiv.org mediates contact with the literature for entire scholarly communities, providing both archival access and daily email and web announcements of new materials. We confirm and extend a surprising correlation between article position in these initial announcements and later citation impact, due primarily to intentional “self-promotion” by authors. There is, however, also a pure “visibility” effect: the subset of articles accidentally in early positions fared measurably better in the long-term citation record. Articles in astrophysics (astro-ph) and two large subcommunities of theoretical high energy physics (hep-th and hep-ph) announced in position 1, for example, respectively received median numbers of citations 83%, 50%, and 100% higher than those lower down, while the subsets there accidentally had 44%, 38%, and 71% visibility boosts. We also consider the positional effects on early readership. The median numbers of early full text downloads for astro-ph, hep-th, and hep-ph articles announced in position 1 were 82%, 61%, and 58% higher than for lower positions, respectively, and those there accidentally had medians visibility-boosted by 53%, 44%, and 46%. Finally, we correlate a variety of readership features with long-term citations, using machine learning methods, and conclude with some observations on impact metrics and the dangers of recommender mechanisms.