Nanotechnology Aggregation or Integration: The Case of Kinesin
Porter, Alan L.
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Several studies have examined the multidisciplinary characteristics of nanotechnology. Most of these studies have drawn on data from publication or patent databases. These "top-down" approaches (which themselves reflect one approach to nanotechnology's development) have produced somewhat mixed results. This is in part because of the inability to examine linkages at the micro (i.e. individual researcher) or the meso (i.e. university laboratory or institute or department) level. But more importantly, taking nanotechnology as a whole can mask the effects of many of the individual research areas that it encompasses. In this study we propose to focus on one research area within the broad research domain of nanotechnology - kinesin. Kinesin is a category of motor proteins found in cells. We seek to observe the multidisciplinary characteristics of kinesin as it is revealed in nano publication patterns and relationships as well as in research activity of nanotechnology publications and an international laboratory in Japan. Research Question The research question addressed in this study is to what extent are multidisciplinary characteristics observed in the kinesin domain and how have these changed over time? We additionally seek to examine how these characteristics appear from a nano publication standpoint compared to how they appear when changing the focus of evidence to laboratory research interactions? Methods This study employs multiple methods to examine the multidisciplinary characteristics of kinesin. We use a database from the Web of Science (WOS) Science Citation Index (SCI) that was compiled using a multi-stage modular Boolean search strategy to extract nanotechnology publications (Porter et al, 2008). From this database, publications pertaining to kinesin are extracted. We then examine the distribution of these publications along a science overlay map using Pajek software for the research area over time and along its various dimensions. We also apply and compare several measures of multidisciplinarity including measures that reflect two aspects of the concept: disciplinary diversity and coherence. In addition to publication-based methods, we report results from observational and interview data on the research activities of two laboratories in Japan working on biomolecular motors (i.e., a subdomain of kinesin). Preliminary Results Early results suggest that kinesin is undergoing an evolution towards disciplinary diversity. Early articles focus on disciplines in the biomedical sciences, while later time periods demonstrate evidence of outreach to chemistry, materials sciences, and physics. There is also evidence of changes in network coherence over time. We see that the kinesin publication network becomes less dense but more specialized over time, with one central cluster articulating the field. Upon examination, this central cluster is also the one with the highest disciplinary diversity. Some of these areas of specialization (some of which are connected and some of which are not) are observed in plant science, cilia related research, chemistry, cellular functions, mechano-chemistry, and materials science. The laboratory studies reveal an additional layer of evidence about multidisciplinarity in kinesin. We observe two different research networks around the two laboratories: one focuses on bioenergetics and the other on linear molecular motors. We also see areas of overlap as key research papers and activities create a connection. These results suggest that nanotechnologies as a whole are disciplinary diverse but not necessarily coherent. By examining the disciplinary diversity and network coherence of each topic, we may spot the local areas wherein knowledge integration is occuring (2). In other words, nanotechnologies seem to be neither fully convergent nor fully divergent; rather they exhibit a modular structure with local integration articulating the convergence of the scattered subfields. 6) Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org 7) Schummer, Joachim (2004). Multidisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, and patterns of research collaboration in nanoscience and nanotechnology, Scientometrics, 59, 425-465; Meyer, M., 2006, What Do We Know About Innovation in Nanotechnology? Some Propositions About an Emerging Field Between Hype and Path-Dependency, Paper presented at the 2006 Technology Transfer Society Conference, September 27-29, Atlanta, Georgia; Porter, A.L., Rafols, I., and Meyer, M. 2008. The cognitive geography of nanotechnologies: locating nano-research in the Map of Science. Paper Presented at the NBER Conference on Nanotechnology and Nanoindicators Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 1-2, 2008. 8) Porter, A.L., Youtie, J., Shapira, P., and Schoeneck, D.J., Refining Search Terms for Nanotechnology, Journal of Nanoparticle Research, Vol. 10 (5), 715-728, 2008. 9) LEYDESDORFF, L. AND RAFOLS, I. (Forthcoming) A Global Map of Science Based on the ISI Subject Categories. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Preprint [http://users.fmg.uva.nl/lleydesdorff/map06/texts/map06.pdf].