The role of mainstreamness and interdisciplinarity for the relevance of scientific papers
Is it possible to tell how interdisciplinary and out-of-the-box scientific papers are, or which papers are mainstream? Here we use the bibliographic coupling network, derived from all physics papers that were published in the Physical Review journals in the past century, to try to identify them as mainstream, out-of-the-box, or interdisciplinary. We show that the network clusters into scientific fields. The position of individual papers with respect to these clusters allows us to estimate their degree of mainstreamness or interdisciplinarity.
We show that over the past decades the fraction of mainstream papers increases, the fraction of out-of-the-box decreases, and the fraction of interdisciplinary papers remains constant. Studying the rewards of papers, we find that in terms of absolute citations, both, mainstream and interdisciplinary papers are rewarded. In the long run, mainstream papers perform less than interdisciplinary ones in terms of citation rates. We conclude that to avoid a unilateral trend towards mainstreamness a new incentive scheme is necessary.
S. Thurner, W. Liu, P. Klimek, S.A. Cheong, The role of mainstreamness and interdisciplinarity for the relevance of scientific papers, PLoS ONE 15 (4) (2020) e0230325