The nearly universal link between the age of past knowledge and tomorrow’s breakthroughs in science and technology: The hotspot

Satyam Mukherjee, Daniel M. Romero, Ben Jones, Brian Uzzi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scientists and inventors can draw on an ever-expanding literature for the building blocks of tomorrow’s ideas, yet little is known about how combinations of past work are related to future discoveries. Our analysis parameterizes the age distribution of a work’s references and revealed three links between the age of prior knowledge and hit papers and patents. First, works that cite literature with a low mean age and high age variance are in a citation “hotspot”; these works double their likelihood of being in the top 5% or better of citations. Second, the hotspot is nearly universal in all branches of science and technology and is increasingly predictive of a work’s future citation impact. Third, a scientist or inventor is significantly more likely to write a paper in the hotspot when they are coauthoring than whey they are working alone. Our findings are based on all 28,426,345 scientific papers in the Web of Science, 1945–2013, and all 5,382,833 U.S. patents, 1950–2010, and reveal new antecedents of high-impact science and the link between prior literature and tomorrow’s breakthrough ideas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1601315
JournalScience Advances
Volume3
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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