Many innovations are inspired by past ideas in a nontrivial way. Tracing these origins and identifying scientific branches is crucial for research inspirations. In this paper, we use citation relations to identify the descendant chart, i.e., the family tree of research papers. Unlike other spanning trees that focus on cost or distance minimization, we make use of the nature of citations and identify the most important parent for each publication, leading to a treelike backbone of the citation network. Measures are introduced to validate the backbone as the descendant chart. We show that citation backbones can well characterize the hierarchical and fractal structure of scientific development, and lead to an accurate classification of fields and subfields.
Bibliographical note©2011 American Physical Society. Tracing the evolution of physics on the backbone of citation networks. S. Gualdi, C. H. Yeung, and Y.-C. Zhang
Phys. Rev. E 84, 046104 – Published 14 October 2011