Measuring originality in science

Sotaro Shibayama, Jian Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Originality has self-evident importance for science, but objectively measuring originality poses a formidable challenge. We conceptualise originality as the degree to which a scientific discovery provides subsequent studies with unique knowledge that is not available from previous studies. Accordingly, we operationalise a new measure of originality for individual scientific papers building on the network betweenness centrality concept. Specifically, we measure the originality of a paper based on the directed citation network between its references and the subsequent papers citing it. We demonstrate the validity of this measure using survey information. In particular, we find that the proposed measure is positively correlated with the self-assessed theoretical originality but not with the methodological originality. We also find that originality can be reliably measured with only a small number of subsequent citing papers, which lowers computational cost and contributes to practical utility. The measure also predicts future citations, further confirming its validity. We further characterise the measure to guide its future use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-427
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Early online date2019 Nov 11
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration
  • Information Systems

Free keywords

  • Scientific originality
  • Citation network
  • Network centrality
  • Novelty


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