A dream team of scientists and mathematicians at Arizona State University have applied the tools of mathematics, and various other scientific disciplines, to research bodies of already existing bodies of research in an attempt to predict breakthroughs.
The team studied breakthrough research, following trains of thought back to the original source. They found through this process of ‘meta-analysis‘, pulled together from the research of around 300,000 authors, a few key innovators that could be attributed as the source of major discoveries in their disciplines.
Mathematicians and Engineers should note that the analysis drew on concepts from graph theory, electrical engineering and applied mathematical tools for analysing large networks.
Whilst this research itself is inter-disciplinary, it also points to the fruitfulness of inter-disciplinary collaboration. The researchers noted that major breakthroughs often coincide with the confluence of many areas of research.
There are practical and political implications too. It is hoped that the analysis can be constantly applied to current research and guide funding bodies in their attribution of support. Medicine applicants might like to contemplate the consequences for research in their field, as this could indicate which research areas may have the most potential to grow.