lifecycle of a sicentific idea
A scientific idea can be split into three stages: exploration, breakthrough, and incremental advance [ @bhattacharya2020 Stagnation and Scientific Incentives ]. In the exploration phase, there is a high risk of failure (i.e. reaching non-publishable work) and in any case the number of citations will be low.
In the breakthrough phase, the impact increases rapidly and the value of a given technique is proven. This is the moment when new fields are created and the number of citations grows exponentially.
Finally, in the incremental advance phase, newly established techniques are applied continuously to new problems, furthering the understanding of a field. Importantly, communities are already in place, which help increase the visibility of the results and augment the number of citations each paper receives (perhaps simply because more people is working in the same subject).