Diversity and Network Coherence as indicators of interdisciplinarity: case studies in bionanoscience

Ismael Rafols adn Martin Meyer

The multidimensional character and inherent conflict with categorisation of

interdisciplinarity makes its mapping and evaluation a challenging task. We propose a

conceptual framework that aims to capture interdisciplinarity in the wider sense of

knowledge integration, by exploring the concepts of diversity and coherence. Disciplinary

diversity indicators are developed to describe the heterogeneity of a bibliometric set

viewed from predefined categories, i.e. using a top-down approach that locates the set on

the global map of science. Network coherence indicators are constructed to measure the

intensity of similarity relations within a bibliometric set, i.e. using a bottom-up approach,

which reveals the structural consistency of the publications network. We carry out case

studies on individual articles in bionanoscience to illustrate how these two perspectives

identify different aspects of interdisciplinarity: disciplinary diversity indicates the largescale

breadth of the knowledge base of a publication; network coherence reflects the

novelty of its knowledge integration. We suggest that the combination of these two

approaches may be useful for comparative studies of emergent scientific and technological

fields, where new and controversial categorisations are accompanied by equally contested

claims of novelty and interdisciplinarity.