Tracing the knowledge-building dynamics in new stem cell technologies through techno-scientific networks

This study assesses the knowledge-building dynamics of emerging technologies, their participating country-level actors, and their interrelations. We examine research on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, a recently discovered stem cell species. Compared to other studies, our approach conflates the totality of publications and patents of a field, and their references, into single “techno-scientific networks” across intellectual bases (IB) and research fronts (RF). Diverse mapping approaches—co-citation, direct citation, and bibliographic coupling networks—are used, driven by the problems tackled by iPS cell researchers. Besides the study of the field of iPS cells as a whole, we assessed the roles of relevant countries in terms of “knowledge exploration,” “knowledge nurturing,” “knowledge exploitation,” and cognitive content. The results show that a fifth of nodes in IB and edges in RF interconnect science (S) and technology (T). S and T domains tell different, yet complementing stories: S overstresses upstream activities, and T captures the increasing influential role of application domains and general technologies. Both S and T reflect the path-dependent nature of iPS cells in embryonic stem cell technologies. Building on the feedback between IB and RF, we examine the dominating role of the United States. Japan, the pioneer, falls behind in quantity, yet its global influence remains intact. New entrants, such as China, are advancing rapidly, yet, cognitively, the bulk of efforts are still upstream. Our study demonstrates the need for bibliometric assessment studies to account for S&T co-evolution. The multiple data source-based, integrated bibliometric approaches of this study are initial efforts toward this direction.

Author(s): Alfonso Ávila-Robinson, Shintaro Sengoku
Organization(s): Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Source: Scientometrics
Year: 2017

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