Inspiration or preparation? Explaining creativity in scientific enterprise

Xinyang Zhang, Dashun Wang, Ting Wang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Human creativity is the ultimate driving force behind scientific progress. While the building blocks of innovations are often embodied in existing knowledge, it is creativity that blends seemingly disparate ideas. Existing studies have made striding advances in quantifying creativity of scientific publications by investigating their citation relationships. Yet, little is known hitherto about the underlying mechanisms governing scientific creative processes, largely due to that a paper's references, at best, only partially reflect its authors' actual information consumption. This work represents an initial step towards fine-grained understanding of creative processes in scientific enterprise. In specific, using two web-scale longitudinal datasets (120.1 million papers and 53.5 billion web requests spanning 4 years), we directly contrast authors' information consumption behaviors against their knowledge products. We find that, of 59.0% papers across all scientific fields, 25.7% of their creativity can be readily explained by information consumed by their authors. Further, by leveraging these findings, we develop a predictive framework that accurately identifies the most critical knowledge to fostering target scientific innovations. We believe that our framework is of fundamental importance to the study of scientific creativity. It promotes strategies to stimulate and potentially automate creative processes, and provides insights towards more effective designs of information recommendation platforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCIKM 2016 - Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450340731
StatePublished - Oct 24 2016
Event25th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, CIKM 2016 - Indianapolis, United States
Duration: Oct 24 2016Oct 28 2016

Publication series

NameInternational Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, Proceedings


Other25th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, CIKM 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Creative process
  • Knowledge production
  • Science of science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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