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I'm interested in the birth / death / life cycle of scientific fields over time, and looking for quantitative metrics that suggest whether a particular scientific field is in decline. A simple and common metric (from the field of bibliometrics) is the number of publications in a given time period, but I'd like to delve deeper: e.g., consider to what degree researchers in a subfield are building on each others' work, versus pursuing independent and idiosyncratic lines of inquiry that don't materially engage with others. (I'm focusing on fields in social science, in case the context matters.) I have two specific questions:

  1. Suppose I have a database of publications and citations for a particular subfield over a given time period. What network measure would allow me to show how cohesive the field is, as measured by the citation network? (My best guess is the distribution of the cardinality of connected components; are there other metrics to consider?)

  2. What other papers should I read, that have measured the decline and death of scientific fields? I'm not the first person to look for metrics on the rise and decline of scientific fields – but all the papers I've found (e.g., this one) focus mainly on the number of publications in a time period. This seems well suited for establishing that a subfield is well on the way to death, but less good for measuring 'warning signs', e.g., in a field that may be in declining health even as the number of papers remains roughly constant. Are there papers that have used network or bibliometric measures to look for signs of decline, using metrics other than sheer number of publications?

If there is another forum/community that matches the question better, please let me know.

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  • $\begingroup$ I seem to recall that Web of Science published something on this ... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_of_Science That was many years ago, so i no longer remember much about it. $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar Aug 23 '18 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ if I have to make that assessment, I will start with the best journal of that field and trace the annual reviews in that specific field- and i am definite i can get a database on the growth and decay of the research fields say in nuclear science. $\endgroup$ – drvrm Aug 24 '18 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ The infancy of a field of study is typically host to a number of competing theories, while its maturity is distinguished by interest in a single theory. Perhaps an analysis of the number of competing theories by field/subfield would be a useful indicator. $\endgroup$ – Nick Aug 24 '18 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ The question appears to be off-topic: it does not appear to be about the history of any science or mathematics or of bibliometrics itself, it seems rather to aim at creating a discussion about generating new bibliometric techniques. Hence my 'close' vote. I'd like to be able to suggest an alternative forum but I'm not familiar with any. $\endgroup$ – terry-s Sep 25 '18 at 9:48
  • $\begingroup$ @terry-s I agree this question is unusual for this forum, thus the comment in my final paragraph, but I looked for alternative communities and concluded this was the best fit. I remain open to other thoughts and recommendations. $\endgroup$ – herfa Oct 8 '18 at 19:40
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  1. I would look for measures of robusteness of (connected components of) the network. The number of connected components itself is probably a very rough measure. What happens if you randomly delete a small number of knots from your network? How much properties of the whole network are shared with large subnetworks?
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