Mapping research fields using co-nomination: the case of hyper-authorship heavy flavour physics

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This paper introduces the use of co-nomination as a method to map research fields by directly accessing their knowledge networks organised around exchange relationships of intellectual influence. Co-nomination is a reputation-based approach combining snowball sampling and social network analysis. It compliments established bibliometric mapping methods by addressing some of their typical shortcomings in specific instances. Here we test co-nomination by mapping one such instance: the idiosyncratic field of CERN-based heavy flavour physics (HFP). HFP is a ‘hyper-authorship’ field where papers conventionally list thousands of authors alphabetically, masking individual intellectual contributions. We also undertook an illustrative author co-citation analysis (ACA) mapping of 2310 HFP articles published 2013–18 and identified using a simple keyword query. Both maps were presented to two HFP scientists for commentary upon structure and validity. Our results suggest co-nomination allows us to access individual-level intellectual influence and discern the experimental and theoretical HFP branches. Co-nomination is powerful in uncovering current and emerging research specialisms in HFP that might remain opaque to other methods. ACA, however, better captures HFP’s historical and intellectual foundations. We conclude by discussing possible future uses of co-nomination in science policy and research evaluation arrangements.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date18 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2020


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