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Building on the ideas of Stirling (J R Soc Interface, 4(15), 707–719, ) and Rafols and Meyer (Scientometrics, 82(2), 263–287, ), we borrow models of genetic distance based on gene diversity and propose a general conceptual framework to investigate the diversity within and among systems and the similarity between systems. This framework can be used to reveal the relationship of systems weighted by the similarity of the corresponding categories. Application of the framework to scientometrics is explored to evaluate the balance of national disciplinary structures, and the homogeneity of disciplinary structures between countries.

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