B – A bibliometric investigation of the Ortega hypothesis

Bornmann L, de Moya Anegon F, Leydesdorff L. Do scientific advancements lean on the shoulders of giants? A bibliometric investigation of the Ortega hypothesis. PLos One 2010;5(10):e13327
(doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013327)

The hypothesis by the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset says that top-level research cannot be successful without a mass of medium researchers on which the top rests. According to it, highly-cited and medium-cited papers would equally refer to papers with a medium impact. The issue is highly relevant for today’s research funding policies: should research funding be focused on elite scientists or rather aim at generating scientific capabilities among the scientific community? In this study the question was addressed from a bibliometric perspective analyzing the field-specific journal sets covered by the Scopus database for the year 2003. It was demonstrated that highly-cited papers more frequently cite highly-cited papers; in other words, the higher a paper’s citation impact the stronger it is connected on previous high-impact research. These findings support the so-called Newton hypothesis.