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Explore with caution: mapping the evolution of scientific interest in physics

Explore with caution: mapping the evolution of scientific interest in physics

Aleta, Alberto, Meloni, Sandro, Perra, Nicola ORCID: 0000-0002-5559-3064 and Moreno, Yamir (2019) Explore with caution: mapping the evolution of scientific interest in physics. EPJ Data Science, 8:27. ISSN 2193-1127 (doi:

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In the book The Essential Tension Thomas Kuhn described the conflict between tradition and innovation in scientific research --i.e., the desire to explore new promising areas, counterposed to the need to capitalize on the work done in the past. While it is probable that along their careers many scientists felt this tension, only few works have tried to quantify it. Here, we address this question by analyzing a large-scale dataset, containing all the papers published by the American Physical Society (APS) in 26 years, which allows for a better understanding of scientists' careers evolution in Physics. We employ the Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS) present in each paper to map the scientific interests of 103,246 authors and their evolution along the years. Our results indeed confirm the existence of the ``essential tension'' with scientists balancing between exploring the boundaries of their area and exploiting previous work. In particular, we found that although the majority of physicists change the topics of their research, they stay within the same broader area thus exploring with caution new scientific endeavors. Furthermore, we quantify the flows of authors moving between different subfields and pinpoint which areas are more likely to attract or donate researchers to the other ones. Overall, our results depict a very distinctive portrait of the evolution of research interests in Physics and can help in designing specific policies for the future.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: science of science, publication dynamics, scientific production dynamics
Subjects: Q Science > QC Physics
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Faculty of Business > Networks and Urban Systems Centre (NUSC)
Faculty of Business > Networks and Urban Systems Centre (NUSC) > Centre for Business Network Analysis (CBNA)
Last Modified: 21 Oct 2020 10:05
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None

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