University of Chicago Big Ideas Generator


Big Question: Big Influence: Predicting Impact in Science and Technology

University of Chicago Big Questions

Principal Investigator: James Evans, Sociology

Funding Type: Workshop

Focus Area: Complexity

Big Idea: Scientific output has grown exponentially in the last century but has become an information overload for researchers and the institutions that support them. To cope, metrics have been developed to help scientists sift through mountains of literature. Yet, these metrics make claims about the 'centrality', 'impact', and 'influence' of ideas in the literature with no ground truth upon which to rest. Moreover, many funding, promotion, and hiring decisions are made on the basis of these metrics. As a result, many Big Ideas may go unexplored. The Big Influence workshop will bring together leaders in bibliometrics and experts in subfields across science to compare and refine models of influence and impact. But crucially, the first workshop will involve the design of a surprisingly old (but reliable) piece of technology to elicit ground truth: a survey. This intelligent survey will collect researcher level data on A) the work that most influenced an author’s research; B) the ideas that researchers believe will be most influential in their fields in the coming years; and C) the problems and questions that are most crucial to the advancement of or major breakthroughs in their fields from 10's of thousands of researchers. Surprisingly, no such dataset exists.

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