Chapter 4: Emerging research fronts in science and technology: identifying breakout ideas early
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How do knowledge communities first form? We believe they form from research fronts - clusters of highly cited research areas - that represent the most dynamic, high-impact areas of science and technology. Using a data set from across basic scientific research, we construct a methodology to identify these fronts, and we use quantitative and qualitative methodology to analyze and describe them. We examine how such clusters relate to other researchers and innovators and find that fronts which maximize impact have very different characteristics than fronts which maximize growth. Our methodology is able to identify these fronts as they form and, with some accuracy, predict their chances of success over time. We look at four case studies that our methodology identified as having high breakout potential: organic thin-film transistors in semi-conductors, ekpyrotic universe theories in theoretical physics, amyloid precursor protein in Alzheimer's research, and early SARS research in epidemiology.

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