Population modeling of the emergence and development of scientific fields

Luís M A Bettencourt, David I. Kaiser, Jasleen Kaur, Carlos Castillo-Chavez, David E. Wojick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


We analyze the temporal evolution of emerging fields within several scientific disciplines in terms of numbers of authors and publications. From bibliographic searches we construct databases of authors, papers, and their dates of publication. We show that the temporal development of each field, while different in detail, is well described by population contagion models, suitably adapted from epidemiology to reflect the dynamics of scientific interaction. Dynamical parameters are estimated and discussed to reflect fundamental characteristics of the field, such as time of apprenticeship and recruitment rate. We also show that fields are characterized by simple scaling laws relating numbers of new publications to new authors, with exponents that reflect increasing or decreasing returns in scientific productivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-518
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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