Which early works are cited most frequently in climate change research literature? A bibliometric approach based on Reference Publication Year Spectroscopy
This bibliometric analysis focuses on the general history of climate change research and, more specifically, on the discovery of the greenhouse effect. First, the Reference Publication Year Spectroscopy (RPYS) is applied to a large publication set on climate change of 222,060 papers published between 1980 and 2014. The references cited therein were extracted and analyzed with regard to publications, which are cited most frequently. Second, a new method for establishing a more subject-specific publication set for applying RPYS (based on the co-citations of a marker reference) is proposed (RPYS-CO). The RPYS of the climate change literature focuses on the history of climate change research in total. We identified 35 highly-cited publications across all disciplines, which include fundamental early scientific works of the 19th century (with a weak connection to climate change) and some cornerstones of science with a stronger connection to climate change. By using the Arrhenius (1896) paper as a RPYS-CO marker paper, we selected only publications specifically discussing the discovery of the greenhouse effect and the role of carbon dioxide. Also, we focused on the time period 1800-1850 to reveal the contributions of J.B.J Fourier in terms of cited references. Using different RPYS approaches in this study, we were able to identify the complete range of works of the celebrated icons as well as many less known works relevant for the history of climate change research. The analyses confirmed the potential of the RPYS method for historical studies: Seminal papers are detected on the basis of the references cited by the overall community without any further assumptions.