Tradition and Innovation in Scientists’ Research Strategies

Published on Oct 1, 2015in American Sociological Review5.39
· DOI :10.1177/0003122415601618
Jacob G. Foster10
Estimated H-index: 10
Andrey Rzhetsky46
Estimated H-index: 46
James A. Evans19
Estimated H-index: 19
What factors affect a scientist’s choice of research problem? Qualitative research in the history and sociology of science suggests that this choice is patterned by an “essential tension” between productive tradition and risky innovation. We examine this tension through Bourdieu’s field theory of science, and we explore it empirically by analyzing millions of biomedical abstracts from MEDLINE. We represent the evolving state of chemical knowledge with networks extracted from these abstracts. We then develop a typology of research strategies on these networks. Scientists can introduce novel chemicals and chemical relationships (innovation) or delve deeper into known ones (tradition). They can consolidate knowledge clusters or bridge them. The aggregate distribution of published strategies remains remarkably stable. High-risk innovation strategies are rare and reflect a growing focus on established knowledge. An innovative publication is more likely to achieve high impact than a conservative one, but the ad...
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  • Citations (98)
#1Feng Shi (U of C: University of Chicago)H-Index: 7
#2Jacob G. Foster (UCLA: University of California, Los Angeles)H-Index: 10
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#1Pierre Azoulay (NBER: National Bureau of Economic Research)H-Index: 18
#2Toby E. Stuart (University of California, Berkeley)H-Index: 34
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#1Jeroen BruggemanH-Index: 10
#2Vincent A. Traag (UCL: Université catholique de Louvain)H-Index: 12
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#1Jerry G. Thursby (Georgia Institute of Technology)H-Index: 36
#2Marie C. Thursby (Georgia Institute of Technology)H-Index: 39
#1Mathieu Albert (U of T: University of Toronto)H-Index: 16
#2Daniel Lee Kleinman (UW: University of Wisconsin-Madison)H-Index: 24
Cited By98
#1An Zeng (BNU: Beijing Normal University)H-Index: 20
#2Zhesi Shen (CAS: Chinese Academy of Sciences)H-Index: 8
Last.Shlomo Havlin (BIU: Bar-Ilan University)H-Index: 105
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#1Zhanwei Du (University of Texas at Austin)H-Index: 5
#2Qing Cai (NTU: Nanyang Technological University)H-Index: 1
Last.Yuan Bai (Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong)H-Index: 1
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#1Caroline S. Wagner (OSU: Ohio State University)H-Index: 23
#2Travis A. Whetsell (FIU: Florida International University)H-Index: 6
Last.Satyam Mukherjee (Indian Institute of Management Udaipur)H-Index: 1
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