John Dupuis has pointed to a series of articles in various ACM venues about research in CS (computer science) and about how their literature is structured. Conference papers are sometimes more prestigious than journal articles, there’s been a proliferation of conferences, journals are too slow, conferences have too many papers from industry (I certainly do not agree), and so forth.
In the current Communications of the ACM, there’s another take on publications in CS, and one that might interest librarians.
Sjoeberg, D.I.K. (2010) Confronting the myth of rapid obsolescence in computing research. Communications of the ACM 53(9), 62-67. DOI: 10.1145/1810891.1810911
This is really one of a category of bibliometric articles – ones that study obsolescence. They answer the question of how far back do researchers go when citing. The idea is that articles older than that are getting dated and are less useful. The Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters reports on the cited half-life of journals – how far back you have to go to get 50% of the references from that year of the journal. Math is notoriously longer – around 10 years – and areas of the life sciences are notoriously shorter – immunology being under 6 years. If you’ll recall, I briefly mentioned a study by Nan Butkovich* that essentially looked at the same thing, but at a local level.
Anyhow, the author used the JCR but also used the ACM Digital Library and the citations extracted there – not perfect but he got publication years for all but 2.7%. The values varied quite a bit by subdiscipline – the theoretical ones were higher – but were all in the middle of the road compared to other fields. Slightly shorter half-life than engineering (which also does conferences, but only the journal articles were looked at) and slightly longer half-life than physics.
The article goes in to a lot more detail. I recommend you take a peek!
* hmm, wonder if studying how various institutions differ from the average would vary only with subdiscipline or if it would be some indicator about the quality of access to older literature?