Is multidisciplinary research more highly cited? A macro-level study

Loet Leydesdorff loet at LEYDESDORFF.NET
Mon Oct 13 03:00:51 EDT 2008

Dear Jonathan and Mike, 

Thank you for this empirical confirmation of what everybody already guessed.

I would hypothesize that a determining factor for citation rates is the
density of the network of citations in which one publishes. (This is also
the philosophy behind the Leiden-normalization.) Allocation mechanisms on
the basis of citations would then discourage risk-taking, and encourage
remaining sheltered in the center of established specialties. Normalization
in the analysis would further reinforce this because the nearly decomposable
systems (for evolutionary reasons) are more dense in the center and more
unwoven in the periphery. Normalization tends to cut on fuzziness and
highlight the centroids in the clouds for the sake of clarity in the

(Of course, journals like Science and Nature are a different cup of coffee.)

It seems to me that this may be one of the main messages of this field to
science-policy makers: one cannot have it both ways. A focus on
interdisciplinarity may lead to innovation and "creative destruction"
(Schumpeter), but innovation will usually fail. It is entrepreneurial in
style. If one wants high rankings in an organization controled by
professional reputations (h-index?), one should think twice before taking
risks (as everyone on tenure-track knows). 

Best wishes, 



Loet Leydesdorff 
Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR), 
Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam. 
Tel.: +31-20- 525 6598; fax: +31-20- 525 3681 
loet at ; 


> -----Original Message-----
> From: ASIS&T Special Interest Group on Metrics 
> [mailto:SIGMETRICS at LISTSERV.UTK.EDU] On Behalf Of Jonathan 
> Levitt and Mike Thelwall
> Sent: Monday, October 13, 2008 1:23 AM
> Subject: [SIGMETRICS] Is multidisciplinary research more 
> highly cited? A macro-level study
> Adminstrative info for SIGMETRICS (for example unsubscribe):
> Levitt, J.M. and Thelwall, M. (2008). Is multidisciplinary 
> research more 
> highly cited? A macro-level study. Journal of the American 
> Society for 
> Information Science and Technology, 59(12), 1973-1984.
> Inter-disciplinary collaboration is a major goal in research 
> policy. This 
> study uses citation analysis to examine diverse subjects in 
> the Web of 
> Science and Scopus to ascertain whether, in general, research 
> published in 
> journals classified in more than one subject is more highly 
> cited than 
> research published in journals classified in a single 
> subject. For each 
> subject the study divides the journals into two disjoint sets 
> called Multi 
> and Mono: Multi consists of all journals in the subject and 
> at least one 
> other subject, whereas Mono consists of all journals in the 
> subject and in 
> no other subject. The main findings are: (a) For social 
> science subject 
> categories in both the Web of Science and Scopus, the average 
> citation 
> levels of articles in Mono and Multi are very similar, and 
> (b) For Scopus 
> subject categories within Life Sciences, Health Sciences, and 
> Physical 
> Sciences, the average citation level of Mono articles is 
> roughly twice that 
> of Multi articles. Hence one cannot assume that, in general, multi-
> disciplinary research will be more highly cited, and the converse is 
> probably true for many areas of science. A policy implication 
> is that, at 
> least in the sciences, multi-disciplinary researchers should not be 
> evaluated by citations on the same basis as mono-disciplinary 
> researchers.
> Reported in the Times Higher Education (REF could penalise 
> those working 
> across disciplines, 
> sectioncode=26&storycode=403796&c=2)
> Jonathan Levitt and Mike Thelwall

More information about the SIGMETRICS mailing list