View More View Less
  • 1 Theoretical Division Los Alamos National Laboratory T-7 MS B284 Los Alamos USA
  • | 2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Theoretical Physics, Laboratory for Nuclear Science, Department of Physics Cambridge USA
  • | 3 Indiana University School of Informatics Bloomington USA
  • | 4 Arizona State University Department of Mathematics and Statistics Tempe USA
  • | 5 Office of Scientific and Technical Information US Department of Energy Oak Ridge USA
  • | 6 Santa Fe Institute 1399 Hyde Park Road Santa Fe NM 87501 USA
Restricted access


We analyze the temporal evolution of emerging fields within several scientific disciplines in terms of numbers of authors and publications. From bibliographic searches we construct databases of authors, papers, and their dates of publication. We show that the temporal development of each field, while different in detail, is well described by population contagion models, suitably adapted from epidemiology to reflect the dynamics of scientific interaction. Dynamical parameters are estimated and discussed to reflect fundamental characteristics of the field, such as time of apprenticeship and recruitment rate. We also show that fields are characterized by simple scaling laws relating numbers of new publications to new authors, with exponents that reflect increasing or decreasing returns in scientific productivity.