New patterns of scientific growth: How research expanded after the invention of scanning tunneling microscopy and the discovery of Buckminsterfullerenes



This article describes patterns of scientific growth that emerge in response to major research accomplishments in instrumentation and the discovery of new matter. Using two Nobel Prize-winning contributions, the scanning tunneling microscope (STM) and the discovery of Buckminsterfullerenes (BUF), we examine the growth of follow-up research via citation networks at the author and subdiscipline level. A longitudinal network analysis suggests that structure, cohesiveness, and interdisciplinarity vary considerably with the type of breakthrough and over time. Scientific progress appears to be multifaceted, including not only theoretical advances but also the discovery of new instrumentation and new matter. In addition, we argue that scientific growth does not necessarily lead to the formation of new specialties or new subdisciplines. Rather, we observe the emergence of a research community formed at the intersection of subdisciplinary boundaries.