Quantifying simultaneous innovations in evolutionary medicine

Deryc T. Painter, Frank van der Wouden, Manfred D. Laubichler*, Hyejin Youn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


To what extent do simultaneous innovations occur and are independently from each other? In this paper we use a novel persistent keyword framework to systematically identify innovations in a large corpus containing academic papers in evolutionary medicine between 2007 and 2011. We examine whether innovative papers occurring simultaneously are independent from each other by evaluating the citation and co-authorship information gathered from the corpus metadata. We find that 19 out of 22 simultaneous innovative papers do, in fact, occur independently from each other. In particular, co-authors of simultaneous innovative papers are no more geographically concentrated than the co-authors of similar non-innovative papers in the field. Our result suggests producing innovative work draws from a collective knowledge pool, rather than from knowledge circulating in distinct localized collaboration networks. Therefore, new ideas can appear at multiple locations and with geographically dispersed co-authorship networks. Our findings support the perspective that simultaneous innovations are the outcome of collective behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-335
Number of pages17
JournalTheory in Biosciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Evolutionary medicine
  • Independence
  • Keyword extraction
  • Novelty
  • Simultaneous innovation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Statistics and Probability


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