The advancement of everything from science to education relies in large part on the ability to come up with new ideas. But under what conditions is innovation most likely? To help answer this key question in the science realm, SFI External Professor Manfred Laubichler and colleagues developed a framework to identify the origins of innovation across one field: evolutionary medicine. They conducted an automated analysis of more than 6,000 documents, including every paper in the field published before January 2018, measuring the novelty and acceptance of the ideas. The team then determined whether they fit within well-established lines of inquiry or fell on the periphery. The authors found that most innovations occurred at the fringe — suggesting that skirting the status quo “could be beneficial to creating novel and lasting change.” The analysis was published in a November special issue of Theory in Biosciences on quantifying collectivity, edited by Laubichler and SFI Resident Professor Jessica Flack.

Read the paper, "Innovations are disproportionately likely in the periphery of a scientific network," in Theory in Biosciences, (Nov. 2021). DOI: 10.1007/s12064-021-00359-1