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Interdisciplinarity affects the technological impact of scientific research


How science contributes to technological innovation can benefit from a deep understanding of intrinsic characteristics of the science base that underlie technologies, especially characteristics with significant implications for the scientific base itself. This paper investigates the correlation between interdisciplinarity of scientific research (variety, balance, disparity, and Rao-Stirling) and their technological impact. Using all Web of Science research articles published in 2002 and USPTO patents, we find that the likelihood of a paper being cited by patents increases with variety and Rao-Stirling, and decreases with balance and disparity. Regarding specific technological impact, the significance of interdisciplinarity is more prominent in the long term and exhibits variations among different disciplines. Specifically, the intensity of technical impact decreases at a decreasing rate with variety over time, increases at a decreasing rate with Rao-Stirling over time, and decreases with disparity in the long term. Balance is insignificant but it presents a positive correlation in medicine and a negative correlation in natural science in the long term. The scope of technological impact focuses on the number of claims and IPCs, increase with variety and disparity in the long term, and increase with balance in the short term, but such positive correlation only in natural science in the long term. Furthermore, scientific impact and technological impact are closely related in our study, but in order to have technological impacts, interdisciplinary papers need first to reach a certain threshold in scientific impact. Our findings suggest that what is considered excellent within interdisciplinary research can potentially lead to remarkable advancements in technological innovation.


Li, B., Chen, S. et Larivière, V. (2023). Interdisciplinarity affects the technological impact of scientific research. Scientometrics, 128(12), 6527-6559

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Bing Li
Shiji Chen