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  • The Diffusion of Novel Ideas: The Variable Careers of New Scientific Concepts

The Diffusion of Novel Ideas: The Variable Careers of New Scientific Concepts

Daniel A McFarland (Stanford)


Fri 16 Apr 2021 | 15:00 - 16:15 (CEST)
Online
Daniel A McFarland (Stanford)

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What conditions help new ideas spread? Can knowledge entrepreneurs’ position and develop new ideas in ways that help them take off? Most innovation research focuses on products and their reference. That focus ignores the ideas themselves and the broader ideational context. Lost are cultural conditions, concept-relations reflecting ideational use, and basic qualities of the ideas themselves. To study how new ideas spread, we use a sample of 38 million texts drawn from the Web of Science (WoS 1900-2016). We extract concepts from these texts as instantiations of ideas using a novel automated phrase mining framework (AutoPhrase) and focus on nearly 70,000 new concepts that emerged from 1992-2016. Using multi-level growth models, we predict the cumulative usage of these concepts as a function of the conditions surrounding their birth and successive usage. We find an idea’s reception is greatly shaped by the evolving conditions and efforts of scholars. Ideas take off when they experience intellectual, social and institutional resonance. In particular, intellectual resonance has the greatest relevance, suggesting ideas require the right semantic and intellectual conditions to be recognized and adopted.

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