The SPIRES database is used each year to produce a list of the most frequently cited papers in particle physics. This year’s list has appeared, although the usual annual discussion of the list from Michael Peskin still hasn’t yet. The trends I commented on last year in the 2003 list are even more pronounced this year.
The top ten most highly-cited papers in particle physics are now dominated by experimental results in astrophysics and cosmology with five papers in this category. Particle theory is represented by three large extra dimension papers from 1998 and 1999, and a single string theory paper, Maldacena’s 1997 article on AdS/CFT. The Maldacena paper is now the fourth most highly cited particle physics paper of all time, surpassed only by citations of the Review of Particle Properties, Weinberg’s 1967 paper, and the 1973 Kobayashi-Maskawa paper.
Even more so than last year, this data shows that particle theory and string theory flat-lined around 1999, with a historically unprecedented lack of much in the way of new ideas ever since. Among the top 50 papers, the only particle theory ones written since 1999 are a paper about pentaquarks by Jaffe and Wilczek from 2003 at number 20, the KKLT flux vacua paper at number 29 and a 2002 paper on pp waves at number 32.
How many more years of this will it take before leaders of the particle theory community are willing to publicly admit that there’s a problem and start a diiscussion about what can be done about it?
For some other interesting statistical data gathered from this database, check out the SPIRES playground.
One relatively recent idea that probably hasn’t fully shown up yet in the yearly citation counts is Witten’s late 2003 idea about relating gauge theory and the topological string in twistor space. While the idea of working in twistor space has lead to a lot new results about gauge theory amplitudes, Witten’s original hope of relating gauge theory and string theory seems to be in trouble.