I’ve had this link on my desktop for a while, a paper by John Ioannidis and colleagues in PLoS ONE: “Estimates of the Continuously Publishing Core in the Scientific Workforce”.
Using the entire Scopus database, we estimated that there are 15,153,100 publishing scientists (distinct author identifiers) in the period 1996–2011. However, only 150,608 (<1%) of them have published something in each and every year in this 16-year period (uninterrupted, continuous presence [UCP] in the literature). This small core of scientists with UCP are far more cited than others, and they account for 41.7% of all papers in the same period and 87.1% of all papers with >1000 citations in the same period. Skipping even a single year substantially affected the average citation impact.
I’m not in the 1%, since I didn’t start publishing regularly until 2000. Indeed, anyone who began or ended their career in this 15-year-period is likely to be absent (although career-enders might still have papers in the pipeline to keep them on the annual-publishing list).
But this is actually very remarkable, that you can differentiate people by whether they publish at least once a year, every year, and the resulting list of people makes up more than 40% of all papers. It speaks to the multi-authored papers that have become so important in most of the sciences. With multi-author lists in mind, it’s less surprising that the same list would include so many of the papers with 1000 citations or more.