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The Article Galaxy Blog

The Growing Guilt Pile: Is Information Overload Slowing Down Your Research?

Karen Hittelman|Lead Copywriter
Karen Hittelman|Lead Copywriter
May 14, 2022

Tsunduko’ is a Japanese term that describes a very specific concept: “Acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them.”

 At Research Solutions, when we talk with research and development (R&D) teams as part of our product development process, this same concept comes up frequently—and is often referred to as 'information overload.' 

It’s no surprise that many researchers and scientists struggle to actually read all the journal articles they've acquired. Keeping up with the latest research is hard! Indeed, another Japanese term—‘tsunami'—is commonly used as a metaphor to describe the overwhelming volume of journal articles being published each year. 

In this post, we’ll share recent industry statistics that explain why keeping up with scholarly research is such a prevalent challenge among R&D teams.  

A quick note before we dive in: If you're losing sleep over your growing collection of unread journal articles, join our webinar on May 31 where we’ll take a closer look at the issues surrounding information overload—and share effective tactics for addressing them. 

A Rising Tide of Scholarly Journals 

While the exact number of scholarly journals in circulation is unknown, the 2021 STM Global Brief offers some insight: Scopus listed 25,648 active journals in October 2020 and Web of Science listed 24,974 journals in 2021—while Ulrich's Web shows the number to be far greater, with more than 48,000 active peer-reviewed journals listed as of September 2021 (including more that 35,000 English language journals). 

And the volume is increasing each year. STM reports that the number of active scholarly journals has been growing by approximately 2 to 3% each year since 2015. 

Millions of Scholarly Articles 

As the number of new peer-reviewed journals continues to grow, the number of articles being published is increasing as well—and at an even faster rate. Between 2015 and 2020, the average growth rate for journal articles published was about 5 to 6.5%.

So, how many scholarly articles are there in the global body of knowledge? 

Short answer: No one knows. But these additional stats from STM’s 2021 Global Brief can help us come up with a very modest estimate:

  • 2020 Scopus data showed 4.2 million records categorized as 'citable documents' 
  • 2020 Dimensions database showed 4.7 million records categorized as 'articles'

 

But the true volume of articles, from all scholarly journals, is likely far higher than either of those two databases shows. Because no single database holds a complete record of all the scholarly articles published globally. The Dimensions dataset, for example, includes articles collected from 87,000 scholarly journals, whereas Scopus collects articles from approximately 20,000 journals (Scientometrics)

It's also worth noting that while original research articles account for the lion's share of records categorized as 'articles,' scholarly journals publish many other types of articles and citable documents. Common examples include conference proceedings, short surveys, scholarly book reviews, clinical case studies, and scholarly literature reviews.

 How to Address Information Overload 

Want to continue this discussion? Join our live webinar! We’ll share insights we’ve gathered from studies and conversations with researchers, scientists, librarians, and other information professionals from across the globe. We’ll examine the top challenges associated with information overload and share modern solutions for addressing them.

WEBINAR DETAILS

Date: Tuesday, May 31, 2022 

Time: 11:00 AM EDT

Duration: 1 hour

Register: The Growing Guilt Pile: Are stacks of research papers keeping you awake?

Read

Tsunduko’ is a Japanese term that describes a very specific concept: “Acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them.”

 At Research Solutions, when we talk with research and development (R&D) teams as part of our product development process, this same concept comes up frequently—and is often referred to as 'information overload.' 

It’s no surprise that many researchers and scientists struggle to actually read all the journal articles they've acquired. Keeping up with the latest research is hard! Indeed, another Japanese term—‘tsunami'—is commonly used as a metaphor to describe the overwhelming volume of journal articles being published each year. 

In this post, we’ll share recent industry statistics that explain why keeping up with scholarly research is such a prevalent challenge among R&D teams.  

A quick note before we dive in: If you're losing sleep over your growing collection of unread journal articles, join our webinar on May 31 where we’ll take a closer look at the issues surrounding information overload—and share effective tactics for addressing them. 

A Rising Tide of Scholarly Journals 

While the exact number of scholarly journals in circulation is unknown, the 2021 STM Global Brief offers some insight: Scopus listed 25,648 active journals in October 2020 and Web of Science listed 24,974 journals in 2021—while Ulrich's Web shows the number to be far greater, with more than 48,000 active peer-reviewed journals listed as of September 2021 (including more that 35,000 English language journals). 

And the volume is increasing each year. STM reports that the number of active scholarly journals has been growing by approximately 2 to 3% each year since 2015. 

Millions of Scholarly Articles 

As the number of new peer-reviewed journals continues to grow, the number of articles being published is increasing as well—and at an even faster rate. Between 2015 and 2020, the average growth rate for journal articles published was about 5 to 6.5%.

So, how many scholarly articles are there in the global body of knowledge? 

Short answer: No one knows. But these additional stats from STM’s 2021 Global Brief can help us come up with a very modest estimate:

  • 2020 Scopus data showed 4.2 million records categorized as 'citable documents' 
  • 2020 Dimensions database showed 4.7 million records categorized as 'articles'

 

But the true volume of articles, from all scholarly journals, is likely far higher than either of those two databases shows. Because no single database holds a complete record of all the scholarly articles published globally. The Dimensions dataset, for example, includes articles collected from 87,000 scholarly journals, whereas Scopus collects articles from approximately 20,000 journals (Scientometrics)

It's also worth noting that while original research articles account for the lion's share of records categorized as 'articles,' scholarly journals publish many other types of articles and citable documents. Common examples include conference proceedings, short surveys, scholarly book reviews, clinical case studies, and scholarly literature reviews.

 How to Address Information Overload 

Want to continue this discussion? Join our live webinar! We’ll share insights we’ve gathered from studies and conversations with researchers, scientists, librarians, and other information professionals from across the globe. We’ll examine the top challenges associated with information overload and share modern solutions for addressing them.

WEBINAR DETAILS

Date: Tuesday, May 31, 2022 

Time: 11:00 AM EDT

Duration: 1 hour

Register: The Growing Guilt Pile: Are stacks of research papers keeping you awake?

The Author

    Karen Hittelman|Lead Copywriter

Karen is a copywriter who specializes in business-to-business (B2B) technology marketing. With more than 14 years of writing experience, she has extensive background in SaaS and cloud-based solutions across a range of industries. Karen has been writing for Research Solutions since 2018, where she serves as an embedded member of the company’s marketing team. She holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of California, Berkeley.

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