Where does innovation come from? The origins of innovation in science are typically understood using historical narratives that tend to be focused on small sets of influential authors, an approach that is rigorous but limited in scope. In this talk, we present insights from a new framework that quantitively identifies innovation across an entire scientific field through automated analysis of an entire corpus of published research papers. This comprehensive approach allows us to explore statistical properties of innovation, asking where innovative ideas tend to originate within a field’s pre-existing conceptual framework.
We find that innovations are disproportionately more likely in the periphery of the bibliographic coupling network, suggesting that the relative freedom allowed by remaining unconnected with well-established lines of research could be beneficial to creating novel and lasting change. In this way, the emergence of collective computation in scientific disciplines may have robustness–adaptability trade-offs that are similar to those found in other biosocial complex systems.
Manfred D. Laubichler is President's Professor of Theoretical Biology and History of Biology, Director of the School of Complex Adaptive Systems in the College of Global Futures and of the Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative and a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University. His work focuses on evolutionary novelties from genomes to knowledge systems, the structure of evolutionary theory and the evolution of knowledge. His undergraduate training was in zoology, philosophy and mathematics at the University of Vienna (Austria) and his graduate training was in biology at Yale and in History/History of Science at Princeton. He is an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute, a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany, external faculty member at the Complexity Science Hub Vienna. He is also an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a former fellow of the WIssenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and Vice Chair of the Global Climate Forum.