Recombinant search and breakthrough idea generation: An analysis of high impact papers in the social sciences
Some ideas have dramatically more impact than others – they may overturn existing paradigms or launch new areas of scientific inquiry. Where do such high impact ideas come from? Are some search processes significantly more likely to lead to breakthrough idea generation than others? In this research, we compare “high impact” papers from the social sciences with random-but-matched articles published in the same journals in the same years. We find that search scope, search depth, and atypical connections between different research domains significantly increase a paper's impact, even when controlling for the experience and prior publishing success of the author(s).
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