How cross-disciplinary is bionanotechnology? Explorations in the specialty of molecular motors

Rafols, Ismael and Meyer, Martin (2007) How cross-disciplinary is bionanotechnology? Explorations in the specialty of molecular motors. Scientometrics, 70 (3). pp. 633-650. ISSN 0138-9130

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Nanotechnology has been presented in the policy discourse as an intrinsically interdisciplinary
field, requiring collaborations among researchers with different backgrounds, and specific funding
schemes supporting knowledge-integration activities. Early bibliometric studies supported this
interdisciplinary vision (MEYER & PERSSON, 1998), but recent results suggest that nanotechnology
is (yet) a mixed bag with various mono-disciplinary subfields (SCHUMMER, 2004). We have reexamined the issue at the research project level, carrying out five case studies in molecular motors,
a specialty of bionanotechnology. Relying both in data from interviews and bibliometric
indicators, we have developed a multidimensional analysis (SANZ-MENÉNDEZ et al., 2001) in order
to explore the extent and types of cross-disciplinary practices in each project. We have found that
there is a consistent high degree of cross-disciplinarity in the cognitive practices of research (i.e.,
use of references and instrumentalities) but a more erratic and narrower degree in the social
dimensions (i.e., affiliation and researchers’ background). This suggests that cross-disciplinarity is
an eminently epistemic characteristic and that bibliometric indicators based on citations and
references capture more accurately the generation of cross-disciplinary knowledge than approaches
tracking co-authors’ disciplinary affiliations. In the light of these findings we raise the question
whether policies focusing on formal collaborations between laboratories are the most appropriate
to facilitate cross-disciplinary knowledge acquisition and generation.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z0665 Library Science. Information Science
Depositing User: Ismael Rafols
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:36
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2012 09:45
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