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Bibliographic coupling and network analysis to assess knowledge coalescence in a research center environment

Jan Youtie, Luciano Kay and Julia Melkers

Research Evaluation, 2013, vol. 22, issue 3, 145-156

Abstract: Science is increasingly organized in large-scale science centers. Expectations are that center-based research should yield qualitatively different research than single-investigator-produced research, but demonstrating the particular effects of a center is challenging. The notion of 'centerness' is that science centers can yield findings that reflect conceptual collisions across disciplinary or geographic boundaries between a center's scientific members. Collaborative research commonly is assessed using co-authorships of scientific publications. Co-authorship measures can be conveniently and unobtrusively operationalized, yet they can yield indicators (especially for a small center) showing little change in collaboration in a center-context, while richer findings of collaboration are evidenced in observing other aspects of center members' behavior. This article puts forth the use of social network analysis and bibliographic coupling as measures of 'centerness' and presents their characteristics in the context of an National Science Foundation (NSF) science center. Bibliographic coupling is characterized as a measure of centerness over the time period of the establishment of an NSF-funded science center. We also examine changes in bibliographic coupling indicators alongside changes in co-authorship networks and a social network survey of center participants. Bibliographic coupling is shown to make a distinctive contribution to measurement of centerness, demonstrating increasing coupling from the pre-center and since-center periods. This increase in centerness as represented in bibliographic coupling does not dramatically change when self-citations are removed. Overall, results show this to be a useful and consistent measure of centerness and knowledge coalescence within the research center environment. Copyright The Author 2013. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:, Oxford University Press.

Date: 2013
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