Measuring the development of a common scientific lexicon in nanotechnology

Over the last two decades, nanotechnology has not only grown considerably but also evolved in its use of scientific terminology. This paper examines the growth in nano-prefixed terms in a corpus of nanotechnology scholarly publications over a 21-year time period. The percentage of publications using a nano-prefixed term has increased from <10 % in the early 1990s to nearly 80 % by 2010. A co-word analysis of nano-prefixed terms indicates that the network of these terms has moved from being densely organized around a few common nano-prefixed terms such as “nanostructure” in 2000 to becoming less dense and more differentiated in using additional nano-prefixed terms while continuing to coalesce around the common nano-prefixed terms by 2010. We further observe that the share of nanotechnology papers oriented toward biomedical and clinical medicine applications has risen from just over 5 % to more than 11 %. While these results cannot fully distinguish between the use of nano-prefixed terms in response to broader policy or societal influences, they do suggest that there are intellectual and scientific underpinnings to the growth of a collectively shared vocabulary. We consider whether our findings signify the maturation of a scientific field and the extent to which this denotes the emergence of a shared scientific understanding regarding nanotechnology.

Author(s): Sanjay K. Arora, Jan Youtie, Stephen Carley, Alan L. Porter, Philip Shapira
Organization(s): Georgia Institute of Technology
Source: Journal of Nanoparticle Research
Year: 2013

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