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To what extent do simultaneous innovations occur and are independently from each other?

In this paper we use a novel "persistent keyword framework" to systematically identify innovations in a large corpus containing academic papers in evolutionary medicine

between 2007 and 2011.

We examine whether innovative papers occurring simultaneously are independent from each other by evaluating the citation and co-authorship information gathered from the corpus metadata. We find that 19 out of 22 simultaneous innovative papers do, in fact, occur independently from each other. In particular, co-authors of simultaneous innovative papers are no more geographically concentrated than the co-authors of similar non-innovative papers in the field.

Our result suggests producing innovative work draws from a collective knowledge pool, rather than from knowledge circulating in distinct localized collaboration networks. Therefore, new ideas can appear at multiple locations and with geographically dispersed co-authorship networks. Our findings support the perspective that simultaneous innovations are the outcome of collective behavior.


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