The burgeoning research fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology are commonly thought to be highly multidisciplinary because they draw on many areas of science and technology to make important advances.
Research reported in the September issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology finds that nanoscience and nanotechnology indeed are highly multidisciplinary – but not much more so than other modern disciplines such as medicine or electrical engineering that also draw on multiple areas of science and technology.
With $1.6 billion scheduled to be invested in nano-related research during 2010, assessing the multidisciplinary nature of the field could be important to policy-makers, research managers, technology-transfer officers and others responsible for managing the investment and creating a supportive environment for it.
Porter and collaborator Jan Youtie, manager of policy services in Georgia Tech's Enterprise Innovation Institute, analyzed abstracts from more than 30,000 papers with "nano" themes that were published between January and July of 2008. They found that although materials science and chemistry dominated the papers, fields as diverse as clinical medicine, biomedical sciences and physics also contributed.
These "nanopapers" studied by the researchers appeared in more than 6,000 journals that were part of a database known as the Science Citation Index (SCI). The researchers found nanopapers in 151 of SCI's 175 subject categories, with 52 of the categories containing more than 100 such papers.
To explore how well knowledge was integrated across the disciplines, the researchers also studied the journal articles that were cited in the nanopapers. They found more than one million cited references, a mean of 33 per paper.
Using text mining techniques to extract sources from the cited references, they further found that 45 subject categories were cited by five percent or more of the nanopapers – and 98 categories that were cited by at least one percent of the papers. The text mining was done using VantagePoint software developed by Georgia Tech and Search Technology Inc.
Six subject categories dominated both the original nanopapers and the cited references. Each of the six contained 10 percent or more of the original nanopapers and was cited by 39 percent or more of the references. They are:Materials science, multidisciplinary
This representation continued even outside the top six categories. The 808 nanopapers in electrical engineering cited papers in journals from 138 different subject categories, while the 435 nanopapers in organic chemistry cited papers in journals from 140 different subject categories.
The researchers also used a metric they called an "integration score" to gauge how interdisciplinary nature of a particular paper or set of papers. The integration score ranged from zero for stand-alone disciplines that don't cite work from other disciplines to one for highly-integrated disciplines that heavily cite work from other areas.
Integration scores ranged from 0.65 for nanoscience and nanotechnology to 0.60 for electrical engineering and 0.64 for organic chemistry.
"Our results show the multidisciplinary nature of research in nanoscience and nanotechnology, although the integration scores make it clear that much non-nano research is also comparably interdisciplinary," Porter said. "Much of the nanoresearch is also concentrated in 'macrodisciplines' such as materials science and chemistry, and researchers tend to cite work from neighboring fields more often than work in more distant fields."
Understanding the interdisciplinary nature of nanoscience and nanotechnology could be important to creating the right environment for the field to produce results.
"There is a broad perspective that most scientific breakthroughs occur at the interstices among more established fields," said Youtie. "Nanotechnology R&D is believed to be an area where disciplines converge. If nanotechnology does have a strong multidisciplinary character, attention to communication across disciplines will be an important feature in its emergence."
In the future, Porter and Youtie hope to explore other policy-focused nano topics, including:How research and development patterns can forecast likely commercial innovations;
Where nanoscience and hotspots for research and development – called "nanodistricts" – exist around the world.
"A nanodistrict is a regional concentration of research institutions and firms where nanotechnologies are developed," Youtie explained. "Although nanotechnology applications are deployed widely across the world, a smaller number of nanodistrict locations are appearing where nanotechnology research, development and initial commercialization are clustered."
The Center for Nanotechnology in Society is part of a broad U.S. effort to anticipate the societal implications of nanotechnology. Georgia Tech's role in the multi-university effort is to characterize the type of nanotechnology research being done and to identify early indicators of emerging technologies in that field.
Youtie and Porter are also part of Georgia Tech's Program in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP), a collaboration of the School of Public Policy and the Enterprise Innovation Institute that advances research and practice in science, technology, innovation and spatial development policy.
The findings and opinions contained in this news release are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).
John Toon | EurekAlert!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences