Small research teams ‘disrupt’ science more radically than large ones

“The authors describe and validate a citation-based index of ‘disruptiveness’ that has previously been proposed for patents6. The intuition behind the index is straightforward: when the papers that cite a given article also reference a substantial proportion of that article’s references, then the article can be seen as consolidating its scientific domain. When the converse is true — that is, when future citations to the article do not also acknowledge the article’s own intellectual forebears — the article can be seen as disrupting its domain.

The disruptiveness index reflects a characteristic of the article’s underlying content that is clearly distinguishable from impact as conventionally captured by overall citation counts. For instance, the index finds that papers that directly contribute to Nobel prizes tend to exhibit high levels of disruptiveness, whereas, at the other extreme, review articles tend to consolidate their fields.”

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