Atypical Combinations and Scientific Impact

Research Seminars
Academic Areas Economics and Public Policy
Benjamin F Jones, Associate Professor, Kellogg School of Management
December 6, 2013 | 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM | Friday
AC 2 New Mini Lecture Theatre (NMLT),, Hyderabad, India
Open to Public

Novelty is an essential feature of creative ideas, yet building blocks of new ideas are often embodied in existing knowledge.  From this perspective, balancing atypical knowledge with conventional knowledge may be critical to the link between innovativeness and impact.  Our analysis of 17.9 million papers spanning all scientific fields suggests that science follows a nearly universal pattern:  the highest-impact science is primarily grounded in exceptionally conventional combinations of prior work yet simultaneously features an intrusion of unusual combinations. Papers of this type were twice as likely to be highly cited works.  Notably, novel combinations of prior work are rare, yet teams are 37.7% more likely than solo authors to insert novel combinations into familiar knowledge domains.