Citations as knowledge flow

Hai Zhuge has an article on Discovery of Knowledge Flow in Science (pdf) in the May 2006 issue of Communications of the ACM.  Zhuge focuses on the scientific citation network that is a familiar topic in academic circles.  I found it interesting for the discussion of knowledge flow and knowledge spirals, as this applies to just about anywhere you can identify knowledge flows, like in blogs.

The basic idea is that, people learn from and build upon the ideas presented by others.  When these people then publish and reference their sources-of-inspiration, one can visualize the flow of knowledge (or ideas) over time.  Once can also get a sense of who are the big thinkers and a sense of community of like-thinkers.  I like Zhuge's analogy of "knowledge energy" that suggests how some research centers appear to create and pass along more knowledge than others.

There are obviously links to the social network analysis community, and I am fairly sure there has been SNA work that looks at citation networks.  Zhuge touches on the idea of roles within the knowledge flows, with the focus being on how those roles relate to the citation network: source (frequently cited), authority (many citations, in and out), bee (diverse citations), hub (many outward citations), and novice.

2 Comment(s)

I am astounded that the author of the ACM paper discussed here doesn't list any references that are older than 1998. People have been studying and publishing about citation network analysis in the sciences for decades, aided immensely by the database that supports the Science Citation Index and related products. Are we destined to "rediscover" these concepts because the older works are not easily available online?

The older works actually are online in many cases now... but anyway... Scientometrics is the granddaddy of SNA. Gene Garfield and Derek Price figured out all of this in the 60's... and Garfield founded ISI and Science Citation Index -- he still works in the field and attends ASIS&T. Also the famous book by Crane in 1972 on Virtual Colleges uses citation networks to look at related groups of researchers.

Once again a CS researcher "invents" something librarians and information scientists have been doing for decades!

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