Work honored by Nobel prizes clusters heavily in a few scientific fields release_ku3ke3bnlbaofaf7z3ysxvjse4

by John Ioannidis, Ioana Alina Cristea, Kevin Boyack

Published in PLoS ONE by Public Library of Science (PLoS).

2020   Volume 15, Issue 7, e0234612


We aimed to assess whether Nobel prizes (widely considered the most prestigious award in science) are clustering in work done in a few specific disciplines. We mapped the key Nobel prize-related publication of each laureate awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry (1995-2017). These key papers mapped in only narrow sub-regions of a 91,726-cluster map of science created from 63 million Scopus-indexed published items. For each key Nobel paper, a median of 435 (range 0 to 88383) other Scopus-indexed items were published within one year and were more heavily cited than the Nobel paper. Of the 114 high-level domains that science can be divided into, only 36 have had a Nobel prize. Five of the 114 domains (particle physics [14%], cell biology [12.1%], atomic physics [10.9%], neuroscience [10.1%], molecular chemistry [5.3%]) have the lion's share, accounting in total for 52.4% of the Nobel prizes. Using a more granular classification with 849 sub-domains shows that only 71 of these sub-domains (8.3%) have at least one Nobel-related paper. Similar clustering was seen when we mapped all the 40,819 Scopus-indexed publications representing the career-long output of all the Nobel laureates. In conclusion, work resulting in Nobel prizes is concentrated in a small minority of scientific disciplines.
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