Phylomemetic Patterns in Science Evolution—The Rise and Fall of Scientific Fields

Cite as : Chavalarias, D., Cointet, J.-P., 2013. Phylomemetic patterns in science evolution—the rise and fall of scientific fields. PloS one 8, e54847.


We introduce an automated method for the bottom-up reconstruction of the cognitive evolution of science, based on big-data issued from digital libraries, and modeled as lineage relationships between scientific fields. We refer to these dynamic structures as phylomemetic networks or phylomemies, by analogy with biological evolution; and we show that they exhibit strong regularities, with clearly identifiable phylomemetic patterns. Some structural properties of the scientific fields – in particular their density -, which are defined independently of the phylomemy reconstruction, are clearly correlated with their status and their fate in the phylomemy (like their age or their short term survival). Within the framework of a quantitative epistemology, this approach raises the question of predictibility for science evolution, and sketches a prototypical life cycle of the scientific fields: an increase of their cohesion after their emergence, the renewal of their conceptual background through branching or merging events, before decaying when their density is getting too low.

Read this paper

Read the article from PLoS One (open access) or download the PDF

Get the Original Dataset

All data are available on dataverse. hdl:1902.1/19062 : Data for dynamical co-word analysis of science evolution