Influential publications in ecological economics: a citation analysis

Robert Costanza, David Stern, Brendan Fisher, Lining He, Chunbo Ma

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    We assessed the degree of influence of selected papers and books in ecological economics using citation analysis. We looked at both the internal influence of publications on the field of ecological economics and the external influence of those same publications on the broader academic community. We used four lists of papers and books for the analysis: (1) 92 papers nominated by the Ecological Economics (EE) Editorial Board; (2) 71 papers that were published in EE and that received 15 or more citations in all journals included in the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Citation Index; (3) 57 papers that had been cited in EE 15 or more times; and (4) 77 monographs and edited books that had been cited in EE 15 or more times. In all, we analyzed 251 unique publications. For each publication, we counted the total number of ISI citations as well as the total number of citations in EE. We calculated the average number of citations per year to each paper since its publication in both the ISI database and in EE, along with the percentage of the total ISI citations that were in EE. Ranking the degree of influence of the publications can be done in several ways, including using the number of ISI citations, the number of EE citations or both. We discuss both the internal and external influence of publications and show how these influences might be considered jointly. We display and analyze the results in several ways. By plotting the ISI citations against the EE citations, we can identify those papers that are mainly influential in EE with some broader influence, those that are mainly influential in the broader literature but have also had influence on EE and other patterns of influence. There are both overlaps and interesting lacunae among the four lists that give us a better picture of the real influence of publications in ecological economics vs. perceptions of those publications' importance. By plotting the number of citations vs. dates of publication, we can identify those publications that are projected to be most influential. Plots of the time series of citations over the 1990-2003 period show a generally increasing trend (contrary to what one would expect for an "average" paper) for the top papers. We suggest that this pattern of increasing citations (and thus influence) over time is one hallmark of a "foundational" paper. Data used in the analysis is available for download from the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) web site to allow further analysis by interested readers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)261-292
    JournalEcological Economics
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


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