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The Scientific Prize Network Predicts Who Pushes the Boundaries of Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science


Scientific prizes confer credibility to persons, ideas, and disciplines, provide financial incentives, and promote community-building celebrations. We examine the growth dynamics and interlocking relationships found in the worldwide scientific prize network. We focus on understanding how the knowledge linkages among prizes and scientists’ propensities for prizewinning relate to knowledge pathways between disciplines and stratification within disciplines. Our data cover more than 3,000 different scientific prizes in diverse disciplines and the career histories of 10,455 prizewinners worldwide for over 100 years. We find several key links between prizes and scientific advances. First, despite an explosive proliferation of prizes over time and across the globe, prizes are more concentrated within a relatively small group of scientific elites, and ties among elites are highly clustered, suggesting that a relatively constrained number of ideas and scholars push the boundaries of science. For example, 64.1% of prizewinners have won two prizes and 13.7% have won five or more prizes. Second, certain prizes strongly interlock disciplines and subdisciplines, creating key pathways by which knowledge spreads and is recognized across science. Third, genealogical and coauthorship networks predict who wins multiple prizes, which helps to explain the interconnectedness among celebrated scientists and their pathbreaking ideas.




Yifang Ma, Brian Uzzi

Date Published



Ma, Yifang, and Brian Uzzi. 2018. The Scientific Prize Network Predicts Who Pushes the Boundaries of Science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


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