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National Cancer Institute

Author connectivity within disciplines: how big is your world?

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Acuna D, Novoa E. Author connectivity within disciplines: how big is your world?. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 13, 2017. Insights Through Network Analysis. Online at:

Collaboration in science is important for improving the productivity, quality, and reproducibility of research. Often, new research projects start when scientists make connections among their advisors, mentors, and co-authors. Understanding the connectivity (e.g., distance) between two scientists is therefore important for starting new collaborative projects. However, we do not know how well scientists are connected within disciplines because access to datasets have been limited. Recent releases of datasets open the door to explore these answers. Previous researchers have examined how disciplines differ in collaboration patterns. Newman (2001, 2004) found that scientific collaborations in Biomedical Research, Physics, and Computer Science exhibit a “small world” pattern, where two scientists are connected by a short path. Finardi and Buratti (2016) found strong patterns of collaboration across BRICS countries and Coccia and Wang (2016) found stronger collaborations between applied and basic sciences in the course of decades. However, these studies have been relatively small in scale. The purpose of this work is to understand author connectivity differences across disciplines. Our hypothesis is that scientists are closely connected but with significant differences across fields. To answer this question, we analyzed the Microsoft Academic Graph (Sinha et al., 2015), matched to the Web of Science discipline classification, containing 16.9 million authors and 25 million articles. We analyzed 19 fields (Fig. 1 A and B) and computed the most frequent field of publication per author. We found that the Multidisciplinary field, with a small share of only 2.2% of the authors (Fig. 1A), has the shortest average distance (3.41, Fig 1B) whereas Engineering has the highest (6.75). Similar to previous studies (Newman, 2001), we confirm that there is a significant correlation between the log of the number of authors and the log of the number of papers with the average distance within fields (r(18) = 0.52, p = 0.02, and r(18) = 0.52, p = 0.02, respectively). Our results coincide with previous findings that the sciences have relatively high minimum distance (compare Agricultural and Biological Sciences = 6.45 with Physics and Astronomy = 5.2). We will explore ideas for future work where we can create systems to automatically suggest collaborators based on fields of study. These results shed light on how teams of scientists may be formed based on connections among them.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, connectivity, connections, world, collaborations, author connectivity

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Learn about the field of team science: history, theory and concepts
  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/3/2017 5:29:40 PM.

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