Source Of Disruptive Ideas

"...papers that spawned whole new branches of science most often spring from lone researchers or small groups, and the more innovative and disruptive the findings, the smaller the team. Big teams are still needed for some kind of tasks, but the most successful of them either test an existing hypothesis or conduct some feat of applied science, such as turning the principle of nuclear fission into a bomb..."
Faye Flam 2019a

This is based on analysing a database containing 65 m. documented advances, scientific papers, patents, software products, etc.

As team size increases, the character of work they produce systematically changes. Tracking individual scientists showed that the same person had a more disruptive impact when they were part of a small team than when part of a larger one. Yet funding favours larger teams as it brings more immediate gratification and recognition, especially if recognised names are in the team.

On the other hand, large teams are important for experimental confirmation of revolutionary ideas and/or to apply an existing idea to a needed task. A good example of this is a Manhattan Project which aimed to apply a new scientific idea, nuclear fission, to bombs. Yet the science behind it was discovered by pairs and individuals.

How do you measure disruption? One measure is to look for tell-tale patterns in the way of paper were sighted in subsequent work, ie
"...the more innovative papers would be cited without the older studies they themselves cited. that would suggest these papers were continuing along known branches, but have started new ones......the disruptive papers also get cited longer into the future - even if they have lower impact at first..."

Faye Flam 2019a

For example,
"...a paper introducing a new phenomenon called self-organised criticality, which was cited without the trail of previous citations - and indeed it was a new branch of research..."

Faye Flam 2019a

Search For Answers

designed by: bluetinweb

We use cookies to provide you with a better service.
By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our policy. I understand