In 1948 Price worked as a teacher of applied mathematics at Raffles College, which was to become part of the National University of Singapore. It was there that he formulated his theory on the exponential growth of science, an idea that occurred to him when he noticed the characteristic logarithmic curve of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society between 1665 and 1850, which he had stacked against his wall at home while Raffles College had its library built.
Around 1950, Price adopted his mother's Sephardic name, "de Solla", as a middle name. He was a "British Atheist ... from a rather well-known Sephardic Jewish family", and although his Danish wife, Ellen, had been christened as a Lutheran, he did not, according to their son Mark, regard their marriage as "mixed", because they were both atheists.
In 1984, Price received, posthumously, the ASIS Research Award for outstanding contributions in the field of information science.
Price's major scientific contributions include:
Price's square root law or Price's law pertains to the relationship between the literature on a subject and the number of authors in the subject area, stating that half of the publications come from the square root of all contributors. Thus, if 100 papers are written by 25 authors, five authors will have contributed 50 papers. Price's law is related to Lotka's law.
Studies of the exponential growth of science and the half-life of scientific literature;
Quantitative studies of the network of citations between scientific papers (Price 1965), including the discovery that both the in- and out-degrees of a citation network have power-law distributions, making this the first published example of a scale-free network;
"Nations can Publish or Perish", in International Science and Technology70 84-90 (1967)
"Citation Measures of Hard Science, Soft Science, Technology, and Nonscience", in Nelson, C. E. & Pollock, D.K. (eds.), Communication among Scientists and Engineers, Lexington, Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, pp. 3–22 (1970).
^Allison, Paul D.; Price, Derek de Solla; Griffith, Belver C.; Moravcsik, Michael J.; Stewart, John A. (1976). "Lotka's Law: A Problem in Its Interpretation and Application". Social Studies of Science. 6 (2): 269–276. doi:10.1177/030631277600600205. JSTOR284934.
^The technical elements of Price's treatment relied heavily upon previous work by Herbert A. Simon, but Price was the first to apply the idea to the growth of a network.
^De Solla Price, D. J. (1967). "A guide to graduate study and research in the history of science and medicine". Isis; an International Review Devoted to the History of Science and its Cultural Influences. 58 (3): 385–395. doi:10.1086/350271. PMID4867473.