Interdisciplinarity and impact: Distinct effects of variety, balance, and disparity

Jian Wang, Bart Thijs, Wolfgang Glänzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

70 Citations (Scopus)


Interdisciplinary research is increasingly recognized as the solution to today's challenging scientific and societal problems, but the relationship between interdisciplinary research and scientific impact is still unclear. This paper studies the association between the degree of interdisciplinarity and the number of citations at the paper level. Different from previous studies compositing various aspects of interdisciplinarity into a single indicator, we use factor analysis to uncover distinct dimensions of interdisciplinarity corresponding to variety, balance, and disparity. We estimate Poisson models with journal fixed effects and robust standard errors to analyze the divergent relationships between these three factors and citations. We find that long-term (13-year) citations (1) increase at an increasing rate with variety, (2) decrease with balance, and (3) increase at a decreasing rate with disparity. Furthermore, interdisciplinarity also affects the process of citation accumulation: (1) although variety and disparity have positive effects on long-term citations, they have negative effects on short-term (3-year) citations, and (2) although balance has a negative effect on long-term citations, its negative effect is insignificant in the short run. These findings have important implications for interdisciplinary research and science policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0127298
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 22 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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