Navigating the Network Ecology of Science
Posted: 24 May 2011
Date Written: May 23, 2011
As Derek de Solla Price famously noted in 1965, the scientific literature forms a vast network. The nodes of this network are the millions of published articles, and they are linked to one another by citations and footnotes. This network grows dynamically and organically, doubling in size every ten to twenty years. It is within this growing network ecosystem that scholars conduct their research. But how does one find his or her way around a vast edifice in which new rooms, corridors, vestibules, and wings are continually added on an ever-expanding foundation? We propose that the revolution in digital scholarship provides the raw material, that when combined with intelligent algorithms, can resolve this problem. Our general approach is to infer a hierarchical map of science from citation data, and then label the structures on this map using an information-theoretic analysis of the full text of papers we are studying. We are currently scaling this technique to the full universe of scholarly publication, so that researchers may always be navigating with maps that are current not to years but to days.
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