PurposeThis study aims to analyse the geographical distribution of global research activities and to investigate the knowledge diffusion embodied in scientific papers.Design/methodology/approachThe geographical summary of Frontiers articles displays the number of visits and categorizes where the visitors hail from. This study uses the records of 23,798 articles published in 16 Frontiers journals from 2007 to 2015 to analyse the geographical distribution of article visits at both country and city levels. The process of knowledge diffusion is investigated on the basis of the different visiting patterns of new and old papers.FindingsMost article visits are concentrated around major metropolitan areas and some high-tech clusters. The top “visiting countries” include both developed countries and developing countries, and the USA and China are two major players. Publishing cities dominate article visits for new papers; as time passes, there is diffusion from the publishing cities to a broader area.Research limitations/implicationsThe data on visiting for open access articles may be generated from various repositories besides the publishers’ websites; these data are ignored, as they are not significant enough to have much influence. There is also a lack of a basic theory in the data processing of outliers in the data set. In addition, only static results are given in this paper, as the data were collected on one day, for one time. A longer time period is necessary to track the dynamic diffusion process of the observations.Practical implicationsIntroduction of usage data will propose a novel way to analyse research activities and track knowledge diffusion.Social implicationsThe visiting data of articles offer a new way to investigate research activities at the city level in a detailed and timely manner, for the geographical distribution of research activities and the research resource allocation of a specific country to be explored.Originality/valueThis study measured the research activities of scientific papers by examining the usage data. Compared with previous studies that focused on the geographical distribution of scientific activities using publication data, citation data and even altmetrics data, usage data are at the forefront of this research. Therefore, usage data offer a fresh perspective on methodology, providing more detailed and real-time information.
The Electronic Library – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 7, 2017
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