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18 - Scientific Impact

from Part III - The Science of Impact

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2021

Dashun Wang
Affiliation:
Northwestern University, Illinois
Albert-László Barabási
Affiliation:
Northeastern University, Boston
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Summary

Here, we focus on two factors that contribute to a paper’s fitness: novelty and publicity. By measuring the novelty of the ideas shared in a paper, we can explore the link between the originality of the research and its impact. Since new ideas are typically snythesized from existing knowledge, we can assess the novelty of an idea by looking at the number domains from which researchers sourced their ideas and how expected or unexpected the combination of domains are. Evidence shows that rare combinations in scientific publications or inventions are associated with high impact. Yet novel ideas are riskier than conventional ones, frequently resulting in failure. Research indicates that scientists tend to be biased against novelty, making unconventional work more difficult to get off the ground. In order to mitigate risk while maximizing novelty, scientists must balance novelty with conventionality. We then look at the role that publicity plays in amplifying a paper’s impact. We find that publicity, whether good or bad, always boosts a paper’s citation counts, indicating that, even in science, it’s better to receive negative attention than no attention at all.

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The Science of Science , pp. 189 - 196
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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