Background: There has been a rapid expansion in the number of research papers published on clinical epilepsy topics and the number of journals in the medical field. In this expanding publishing environment, the question arises as to how much of the published medical literature has 'enduring value' in terms of advancing knowledge in any significant way.
Methods: We developed a methodology to assess the enduring value of papers published in the field of clinical epilepsy and established its internal validity. We studied 300 research papers published in 1981, 1991, and 2001 (100 in each year) and assessed their enduring value in four domains: citations in the last year, citations in the last 10years, citations in the standard epilepsy textbook, and a subjective assessment by an experienced epileptologist.
Results: Of the 300 papers, 214 (71%) were categorized as having 'no enduring value', and only 11 (4%) were identified as having 'high enduring value'. The 'high enduring value' papers could generally be identified immediately on publication, by high initial citation values, and were also more likely to be published in journals with a high impact factor. The commonest characteristics of a paper with no enduring value were that they reported research that was inherently unimportant (55.6%), not novel (38.8%), or had significant methodological flaws (22.0%).
Conclusions: Although there are other reasons for publishing papers, the fact that the great majority of published papers lack enduring value in terms of advancing knowledge should be a concern to the medical and scientific community.
Keywords: Citation; Epilepsy; Impact factor; Research assessment; Research evaluation.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.