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Title: Knowledge evolution in physics research: An analysis of bibliographic coupling networks
Authors: Liu, Wenyuan
Nanetti, Andrea
Cheong, Siew Ann
Keywords: Physics
Issue Date: 2017
Source: Liu, W., Nanetti, A., & Cheong, S. A. (2017). Knowledge evolution in physics research: An analysis of bibliographic coupling networks. PLOS ONE, 12(9), e0184821-.
Series/Report no.: PLOS ONE
Abstract: Even as we advance the frontiers of physics knowledge, our understanding of how this knowledge evolves remains at the descriptive levels of Popper and Kuhn. Using the American Physical Society (APS) publications data sets, we ask in this paper how new knowledge is built upon old knowledge. We do so by constructing year-to-year bibliographic coupling networks, and identify in them validated communities that represent different research fields. We then visualize their evolutionary relationships in the form of alluvial diagrams, and show how they remain intact through APS journal splits. Quantitatively, we see that most fields undergo weak Popperian mixing, and it is rare for a field to remain isolated/undergo strong mixing. The sizes of fields obey a simple linear growth with recombination. We can also reliably predict the merging between two fields, but not for the considerably more complex splitting. Finally, we report a case study of two fields that underwent repeated merging and splitting around 1995, and how these Kuhnian events are correlated with breakthroughs on Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC), quantum teleportation, and slow light. This impact showed up quantitatively in the citations of the BEC field as a larger proportion of references from during and shortly after these events.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184821
Schools: School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences 
School of Art, Design and Media 
Research Centres: Complexity Institute 
Complexity Institute 
Rights: © 2017 Liu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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