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The laws of the evolution of research fields

Mario Coccia ()

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Abstract: A fundamental question in the field of social studies of science is how research fields emerge, grow and decline over time and space. This study confronts this question here by developing an inductive analysis of emerging research fields represented by human microbiome, evolutionary robotics and astrobiology. In particular, number of papers from starting years to 2017 of each emerging research field is analyzed considering the subject areas (i.e., disciplines) of authors. Findings suggest some empirical laws of the evolution of research fields: the first law states that the evolution of a specific research field is driven by few scientific disciplines (3- 5) that generate more than 80% of documents (concentration of the scientific production); the second law states that the evolution of research fields is path-dependent of a critical discipline (it can be a native discipline that has originated the research field or a new discipline emerged during the social dynamics of science); the third law states that a research field can be driven during its evolution by a new discipline originated by a process of specialization within science. The findings here can explain and generalize, whenever possible some properties of the evolution of scientific fields that are due to interaction between disciplines, convergence between basic and applied research fields and interdisciplinary in scientific research. Overall, then, this study begins the process of clarifying and generalizing, as far as possible, the properties of the social construction and evolution of science to lay a foundation for the development of sophisticated theories.

Date: 2018-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo and nep-hpe
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