When I saw that Google had introduced a “Classic Papers” section of Google Scholar, its search tool for academic journals, I couldn’t help but stroke my chin professorially. What would make a paper a classic, especially for the search giant? In a blog post introducing the feature, Google software engineer Sean Henderson explains the company’s rationale. While some articles gain temporary attention for a new and surprising finding or discovery, others “have stood the test of time,” as Henderson puts it.
How to measure that longevity? Classic Papers selects papers published in 2006, in a wide range of disciplines, which had earned the most citations as of this year. To become a classic, according to Google, is just to have been the most popular over the decade during which Google itself rose to prominence.
It might seem like an unimportant, pedantic gripe to people outside of academia. But Scholar’s classic papers offers a window into how Google conceives of knowledge—and the effect that theory has on the ideas people find with its services.