Capturing new developments in an emerging technology: An updated search strategy for identifying nanotechnology research outputs

S. Arora, A.L. Porter, J. Youtie, P. Shapira

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Bibliometric analysis of publication metadata is an important tool for investigating emerging fields of technology. However, the application of field definitions to define an emerging technology is complicated by ongoing and at times rapid change in the underlying technology itself. There is limited prior work on adapting the bibliometric definitions of emerging technologies as these technologies change over time. The paper addresses this gap. We draw on the example of the modular keyword nanotechnology search strategy developed at Georgia Institute of Technology in 2006. This search approach has seen extensive use in analyzing emerging trends in nanotechnology research and innovation. Yet with the growth of the nanotechnology field, novel materials, particles, technologies, and tools have appeared. We report on the process and results of reviewing and updating this nanotechnology search strategy. By employing structured text-mining software to profile keyword terms, and by soliciting input from domain experts, we identify new nanotechnology-related keywords. We retroactively apply the revised evolutionary lexical query to 20 years of publication data and analyze the results. Our findings indicate that the updated search approach offers an incremental improvement over the original strategy in terms of recall and precision. Additionally, the updated strategy reveals the importance for nanotechnology of several emerging cited-subject categories, particularly in the biomedical sciences, suggesting a further extension of the nanotechnology knowledge domain. The implications of the work for applying bibliometric definitions to emerging technologies are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-370
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


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