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Sci Rep. 2012;2:551. doi: 10.1038/srep00551. Epub 2012 Aug 1.

The evolution of interdisciplinarity in physics research.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science, Aalto University School of Science, P.O. Box 12200, FI-00076, Finland.


Science, being a social enterprise, is subject to fragmentation into groups that focus on specialized areas or topics. Often new advances occur through cross-fertilization of ideas between sub-fields that otherwise have little overlap as they study dissimilar phenomena using different techniques. Thus to explore the nature and dynamics of scientific progress one needs to consider the organization and interactions between different subject areas. Here, we study the relationships between the sub-fields of Physics using the Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS) codes employed for self-categorization of articles published over the past 25 years (1985-2009). We observe a clear trend towards increasing interactions between the different sub-fields. The network of sub-fields also exhibits core-periphery organization, the nucleus being dominated by Condensed Matter and General Physics. However, over time Interdisciplinary Physics is steadily increasing its share in the network core, reflecting a shift in the overall trend of Physics research.

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