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Do synthesis centers produce novel, potentially transformative research? Research publication diversity as an indicator of novelty and transformative capacity

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posted on 2015-02-23, 22:00 authored by Stacy Rebich-HespanhaStacy Rebich-Hespanha, Ismael Rafols, John N. Parker, Edward J. Hackett, João P. Hespanha, The Sensible Science Working Group

Poster presented February 15, 2015 at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, CA.



Synthesis is an emerging synthetic method for producing transformative research, and publications centers to promote synthesis are on the rise in the US and around the world. New analytic tools and techniques are needed to assess the originality and transformative potential of synthesis. We propose that research outputs produced within synthesis centers will exhibit distinctive qualities that distinguish them from other publications in their fields. To explore this possibility, we conducted a topical analysis of titles, abstracts, and keywords for approximately 400,000 articles published in 108 leading journals from the fields of Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Biodiversity Conservation, Forestry, and Fisheries. We then described each document as a proportional combination of the discovered topics, and used the Rao-Stirling heuristics to estimate, for each document, various measures that illuminate contrasting aspects of diversity (i.e. variety, balance, and disparity). We then compare diversity metrics for the synthesis center documents with those for all other documents in our corpus to evaluate whether and how the measured diversity of synthesis center publications differs from that of other publications in the relevant fields.


The Sensible Science Working Group

is led by

Ed Hackett, ASU

John Parker, ASU

and includes members

Benjamin Adams, University of Aukland

Ugo Corte, Uppsala University

John Drake, U Georgia

Stephanie Hampton, WSU

Erin Leahey, U of Arizona

Craig McClain, Duke

Bart Penders, U Maastricht

Ismael Rafols, Polytechnic University of València

Stacy Rebich-Hespanha, UC Santa Barbara

Laura Sheble, UNC Chapel Hill

Niki Vermeulen, U Edinburgh

Todd Vision, UNC Chapel Hill