XIII.4 Science Paths

Kim Albrecht

Albert-László Barabási

Roberta Sinatra

Northeastern University’s Center for Complex Research members Kim Albrecht and Albert-László Barabási worked with Roberta Sinatra, a theoretical physicist from Budapest, to analyze the publication histories of nearly 10,000 scientists working in seven disciplines, connecting each paper with its long-term impact on the scientific community. They found that the most influential work of a scientist’s career is randomly distributed within her body of work. That is, the highest-impact work has the same probability of falling anywhere in the sequence of papers published by a scientist. It could be the first publication, appear mid-career, or emerge last. The team coined this the random impact rule.

This visualization shows the random impact rule in all its power. You can explore careers in different disciplines and rank scientists according to different career parameters, like the total number of papers in each scientist’s career. You will find impact peaks occurring all over the place, from the beginning of a career on the left to the end of a career on the right.

Visit Science Paths online at http://kimalbrecht.com/project/science-paths.


Sinatra, Roberta, Dashun Wang, Pierre Deville, Chaoming Song, and Albert-László Barabási. 2016. “Quantifying the Evolution of Individual Scientific Impact.” Science 354 (6312): 596-7.

Albrecht, Kim, Albert-László Barabási, and Roberta Sinatra. 2016. Science Paths. Courtesy of the Center for Complex Research, Northeastern University. In “13th Iteration (2017): Macroscopes for Playing with Scale, Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Lisel Record. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.