Measures of Interdisciplinarity Summary

Interesting email from SCISIP mailing list: Re: [scisip] Looking for statistics about state of interdisciplinary research
Tue 11/22/2016 8:10 AM

Hi, all:

Thank you to those who helped me pull some numbers on the status interdisciplinary research. Here is what I found just from these two listservs. It’s simply a summary of the replies I received, not a comprehensive literature review. Hope it’s helpful. Full references are below my signature.

Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Statistics
• Bethany Laursen (22 November 2016) did a keyword search for “interdisciplinary” of the active, forecasted, closed, and archived grants posted at This search returned $15.6 trillion earmarked for IDR and programs from 2007-2019 by all US agencies. Active and forecasted grants from this search total nearly $1.3 trillion.

• Porter and Rafols (2009) reported an approximately 75% increase in the number of co-authors across 6 topic domains from 1975-2005
• The National Research Council publication Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science (2015, p.1) reported that 90% of all publications are now authored by two or more people.

Topics/Subject Matter
• Van Noorden (2015) illustrated a slight increase in the % of papers citing other disciplines over recent decades, and a slight decrease in the % of papers citing the same discipline
• Porter and Rafols (2009) report an approximately 50% increase in the # of cited disciplines per article across 6 topic domains from 1975-2005.
• Porter and Rafols (2009) also report that the disciplines that are cited tend to be near each other (i.e., narrow IDR). However, this might be due to the dominance of the quantity of articles coming from the USA in 1975-2005. A report from Elsevier (2015) showed that USA articles tend to be narrowly interdisciplinary. Interestingly, as of 2013, China now produces as many (perhaps more) IDR articles as the USA, and their articles are much more broadly interdisciplinary.

Citation Impact
• Van Noorden (2015) showed that in the short term (3 years post-publication) the more interdisciplinary an article is, the fewer citations it gets compared to other articles. However, that trend reverses over the long term (13 years post-publication).

Titles of Articles
• Van Noorden (2015) showed there has been a dramatic increase in the number of social science and humanities articles that include the word “interdisciplin*” in their titles over recent decades. This increase has been less dramatic for the natural sciences and engineering.

• Bowman et al (2014) demonstrate that 2.3 million dissertations in ProQuest are better classified by topic than by subject category, indicating an emerging “post-disciplinary” research space.

How to Measure IDR:
• Wagner et al (2010) discuss principles for choosing measures of IDR
• Sugimoto and Weingart (2015) clearly and comprehensively review how the word “discipline” developed across the world and how we now operationalize it in terms of journals, founding “great men,” and other social phenomena.
• Porter and Rafols (2009) describe and apply the Rao-Stirling diversity index
• Guevara et al (2016) demonstrate a new method for mapping the “research space” in terms of fields in which the same author publishes.

Thanks, all! Hope to see many of you at SciTS next year.


Bethany Laursen
Ph.D. student, Community Sustainability
M.A. student, Philosophy
Michigan State University

Bowman, T. D., Tsou, A., Ni, C., & Sugimoto, C. R. (2014). Post-interdisciplinary frames of reference: exploring permeability and perceptions of disciplinarity in the social sciences. Scientometrics, 101(3), 1695–1714.

Elsevier. (2015). A Review of the UK’s Interdisciplinary Research Using a Citation-Based Approach (pp. 1–102).

Guevara, M. R., Hartmann, D., Aristarán, M., Mendoza, M., & Hidalgo, C. A. (2016). The research space: using career paths to predict the evolution of the research output of individuals, institutions, and nations. Scientometrics, 1–22.

National Research Council. (2015). Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science. (N. J. Cooke & M. L. Hilton, Eds.) (pp. 1–256). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Porter, A. L., & Rafols, I. (2009). Is science becoming more interdisciplinary? Measuring and mapping six research fields over time. Scientometrics, 81(3), 719–745.

Sugimoto, C. R., & Weingart, S. (2015). The kaleidoscope of disciplinarity. Journal of Documentation, 71(4), 775–794.

Van Noorden, R. (2015). Interdisciplinary research by the numbers. Nature, 525(7569), 306–307.

Wagner, C. S., Roessner, J. D., Bobb, K., Klein, J. T., Boyack, K. W., Keyton, J., et al. (2011). Approaches to understanding and measuring interdisciplinary scientific research (IDR): A review of the literature. Journal of Informetrics, 5(1), 14–26.

On Nov 11, 2016, at 10:38 AM, Bethany Laursen wrote:

Hi, everyone:

My work in this field tends to be qualitative and philosophical. Does anyone have some recent statistics that might summarize the state of interdisciplinary research, in the USA or beyond? For example,

• $$ spent on interdisciplinary research annually by NSF, NIH
• Trending average # of fields per publication per the Web of Science taxonomy
• Trend in # of interdisciplinary journals
• etc.

Thanks in advance for filling in a gap in my knowledge!


Bethany Laursen
Ph.D. student, Community Sustainability
M.A. student, Philosophy
Michigan State University

To send to the list, address your message to:
To subscribe to the list: send the text “subscribe SCISIP” to
To unsubscribe: sent the text “unsubscribe SCISIP” to

Comments Off on Measures of Interdisciplinarity Summary

Filed under Uncategorized

Comments are closed.