So just how many papers are there?

IMGP4670Last week I mentioned the problems of keeping up with the ever growing scientific literature and just how many papers and books there are now readily available. As an illustration of this, here is my bookcase at the IVPP. As you can see, it’s really very full with both books, scientific volumes and monographs and stacks of papers. Standing on top is set of boxfiles of various papers and there are several more sets like this sat on my desk right now for the projects I’m working on. Added to that is all the stuff I didn’t bring to China (another half dozen boxfiles) and my PDF collection (which currently stands just shy of 3000 files, some of which themselves are whole books). In short there is a lot of science out there!

Don’t forget that this collection is just what I have accumulated in around 10 since I first finished my batchelors degree and I only started my PhD in 2002. A great many researchers have entire rooms filled with books and papers and anyone who has stumbled into a science library will know just how much literature there is. Is it then surprising that even those of us with very narrow research interests have not actually read everything on the subject. I’ve not actually read a significant fraction of this collection (for obvious reasons, even averaging a page every 2 minutes, going 24 hours a day at a rough calculation means there is well over three months worth of reading there!) but the information is there and accessible which is the main thing. Even this of course does not take into account what I *don’t* have, I estimate I have only about 1 in 20 of every pterosaur paper ever published in my collections somewhere which is not great when you think about it. In short, the scientific literature is huge.

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8 Responses to “So just how many papers are there?”


  1. 1 Tor Bertin 13/11/2009 at 11:34 am

    I’m at… 300 pdfs and counting. I’ve got a ways to go!😉

  2. 3 David 13/11/2009 at 7:22 pm

    In economics at least the majority of papers aren’t useful really at all I think. And there are much smaller numbers of really good ones on any topic and occasionally there are useful bits of information contained in others (unless you are doing a meta-analysis).

  3. 4 Nick Gardner 14/11/2009 at 7:26 am

    I do not know how many individual files I have, but I do know that my PDF collection takes up at least 50 gigabytes. Though I have been collecting for as long as you have, David.🙂

    Ironically, I recently boxed up the papers I used for the past three grants (and one manuscript) I submitted and all of it neatly fit into one filing box (probably 2’x1’x1′), oddly enough.

  4. 5 sterndavidi 14/11/2009 at 10:59 am

    About the theropod arms. As they evolved from quadrupedal ancestors who presumably placed their fingers on the ground (and the prosauropods still could), what evolutionary advantage was there in losing this ability? Ornithopods retained this ability. Could they also hold their hands to the theropod position?

    • 6 David Hone 14/11/2009 at 2:04 pm

      I assuem this comment should have gone wih the Aardonyx post, but no matter. To be honest, I’m really not sure what the liekly advantage might be in reducing quadrupedality for a relatively robust animal and I don’t know much about ornithopod pronation. Sorry to be obtuse, but I’m genuinely not sure about either thoguh i rather suspect there is information lurking in, as we note here, the vast scientific literature.

  5. 7 sterndavidi 14/11/2009 at 3:01 pm

    Iguanodon is always pictured when standing with its thumbs sticking straight up. But that could be wrong….

    • 8 David Hone 15/11/2009 at 11:25 am

      Well that illustration style has been around for a century, and while the thumb does lie at a disjunct angle to the rest of the hand, the manus as a whole would have to be in a ‘clapper’ position to get the thumb spike up there. I really don’t know how well ornithischians can pronate – I’ll tyr to look into it but I’m away next week.


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