This study explores the characteristics of scientific activity patterns through co-author affiliations to obtain new insights into interdisciplinary research. To classify the interdisciplinarity in research, we explored and compared two different approaches: the diversity of disciplines reflected in the listed affiliations of the authors and the diversity of the subject categories reflected in the reference list. To assess the diversity in departmental affiliations, we developed an explorative methodology that retrieves feature words from a combination of manual work and the thesaurus function in the Thomson Data Analyzer text mining tool. To assess the diversity in references, we followed the conventional approach applied in previous work. With both approaches, we relied on diversity as the measure for assessing interdisciplinarity of 157,710 articles published in PloS One (2007–2016). Based on a comparison between the results of both approaches, our study confirms that different methodologies and indicators can produce seriously inconsistent, and even contradictory results. In addition, different indicators may capture different understandings of such a multi-faceted concept as interdisciplinarity. Our results are summarized in a schematic representation of this twofold perspective as a method of indexing the different types of interdisciplinarity commonly found in research studies.
Author(s): Lin Zhang, Beibei Sun, Zaida Chinchilla-Rodríguez, Lixin Chen, Ying Huang
Organization(s): Wuhan University, North China University of Water Resources and Electric Power