Luís A. Nunes Amaral

co-Director, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems
Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering
Professor of Physics & Astronomy (by courtesy)
Professor of Medicine (by courtesy)

Chemical & Biological Engineering
2145 Sheridan Road (Room E136)
EvanstonIL 60208US
Phone: (847) 491-7850


A central issue in evaluative bibliometrics is the char- acterization of the citation distribution of papers in the scientific literature. Here, we perform a large-scale empir- ical analysis of journals from every field in Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science database. We find that only 30 of the 2,184 journals have citation distributions that are inconsistent with a discrete lognormal distribution at the rejection threshold that controls the false discovery rate at 0.05. We find that large, multidisciplinary journals are over-represented in this set of 30 journals, leading us to conclude that, within a discipline, citation distributions are lognormal. Our results strongly suggest that the dis- crete lognormal distribution is a globally accurate model for the distribution of “eventual impact” of scientific papers published in single-discipline journal in a single year that is removed sufficiently from the present date.