Simultaneous Discoveries as a Research Tool: Method and Promise

33 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2013

Date Written: September 30, 2012


Nearly half a century after Merton’s description of simultaneous discoveries "as a strategic research site" (Merton 1963), they are hardly ever used by social scientists. Although their promise as a research tool has been established, operationalization issues have hindered their use. Disagreement exists over the appropriate amount of scientific and technological similarity necessary to consider two or more discoveries a multiple. This paper intends to unleash the potential of simultaneous discovery as a research tool. First, we review prior work on the topic and describe the vast theoretical potential of this approach. Second, we propose a new method that uses the literature on the social construction of science to go beyond the old debate of scientific and technological similarity. Third, we present a new algorithm that generated a large dataset of scientific multiples in an automated and systematic fashion. Finally, we describe the resulting sample of 578 recent discoveries made by 1,246 teams of scientists working in a variety of settings around the world.

Keywords: Simultaneous discoveries, Scientific multiples, Knowledge twins

JEL Classification: O31, O32

Suggested Citation

Bikard, Michaël A., Simultaneous Discoveries as a Research Tool: Method and Promise (September 30, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Michaël A. Bikard (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
Fontainebleau, 77300

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