Measuring the development of a common scientific lexicon in nanotechnology

  • Sanjay K. Arora
  • Jan Youtie
  • Stephen Carley
  • Alan L. Porter
  • Philip Shapira


Over the last two decades, nanotechnology has not only grown considerably but also evolved in its use of scientific terminology. This paper examines the growth in nano-prefixed terms in a corpus of nanotechnology scholarly publications over a 21-year time period. The percentage of publications using a nano-prefixed term has increased from <10 % in the early 1990s to nearly 80 % by 2010. A co-word analysis of nano-prefixed terms indicates that the network of these terms has moved from being densely organized around a few common nano-prefixed terms such as “nanostructure” in 2000 to becoming less dense and more differentiated in using additional nano-prefixed terms while continuing to coalesce around the common nano-prefixed terms by 2010. We further observe that the share of nanotechnology papers oriented toward biomedical and clinical medicine applications has risen from just over 5 % to more than 11 %. While these results cannot fully distinguish between the use of nano-prefixed terms in response to broader policy or societal influences, they do suggest that there are intellectual and scientific underpinnings to the growth of a collectively shared vocabulary. We consider whether our findings signify the maturation of a scientific field and the extent to which this denotes the emergence of a shared scientific understanding regarding nanotechnology.


Scientific lexicon Bibliometrics Science and technology policy 


  1. Arora SK, Porter AL, Youtie J, Shapira P (2012) Capturing new developments in an emerging technology: an updated search strategy for identifying nanotechnology research outputs. Scientometrics 95(1):351–370. doi: 10.1007/s11192-012-0903-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baneyx F, Park J-K (2013) Nanobio versus Bionano: what’s in a name? Biotechnol J 8(2):158–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borgatti SP, Everett MG, Johnson JC (2013) Analyzing social networks. SAGE, London, p 304Google Scholar
  4. Braun T, Zsindely S, Dióspatonyi I, Zádor E (2007) Gatekeeping patterns in nano-titled journals. Scientometrics 70(3):651–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cacciatore M, Anderson A, Choi D-H, Brossard D, Scheufele D, Liang X, Ladwig P, Xenos M, Dudo A (2012) Coverage of emerging technologies: a comparison between print and online media. New Media Soc 14(6):1039–1059CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. DeBellis N (2009) Bibliometrics and citation analysis: from the science citation index to cybermetrics. Scarecrow Press, Lanham, p 450Google Scholar
  7. Grieneisen M, Zhang M (2011) Nanoscience and nanotechnology: evolving definitions and growing footprint on the scientific landscape. Small 7(20):2836–2839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Grieneisen M, Zhang M (2012) The ongoing proliferation of nano journals. Nat Nanotechnol 7(5):273–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Grienseisen M (2010) The proliferation of nano journals. Nat Nanotechnol 5:825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Guston D, Sarewitz D (2002) Real-time technology assessment. Technol Soc 24(1–2):93–109. doi: 10.1016/S0160-791X(01)00047-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hersm M (2011) Nanoscience and nanotechnology in the posthype era. ACS Nano 5(1):1–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hodges G, Maynard A, Bowman D (2013) Nanotechnology: rhetoric, risk and regulation. Sci Pub Policy. doi: 10.1093/scipol/sct029 Google Scholar
  13. Huang Z, Chen H, Yip A, Ng G, Guo F, Chen Z-K, Roco MC (2003) Longitudinal patent analysis for nanoscale science and engineering: country, institution and technology field. J Nanopart Res 5(3–4):333–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Huang C, Notten A, Rasters N (2010) Nanoscience and technology publications and patents: a review of social science studies and search strategies. J Technol Transf 36(2):145–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Khushf G (2004) A hierarchical architecture for nano-scale science and technology: taking stock of the claims about science made by advocates of NBIC convergence. In: Baird D, Nordmann A, Schummer J (eds) Discovering the nanoscale. IOS Press, Amsterdam, pp 21–33Google Scholar
  16. Kuhn TS (1996) The structure of scientific revolutions (3rd edn). University of Chicago Press, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  17. Macnaghten P, Kearnes M, Wynne B (2005) Nanotechnology, governance, and public deliberation: what role for the social sciences? Sci Commun 27(2):268–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Meyer M (2007) What do we know about innovation in nanotechnology? Some propositions about an emerging field between hype and path-dependency. Scientometrics 70(3):779–810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. NSET (2007) The national nanotechnology initiative: research and development leading to a revolution in technology and industry. Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology, Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council, Executive Office of the President, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  20. O’Brien JJ, Carley S, Porter AL (2013). Keyword field cleaning through ClusterSuite: a term-clumping tool for VantagePoint software. Poster presented at Global Tech Mining Conference, Atlanta, GAGoogle Scholar
  21. Porter AL, Youtie J (2009a) Where does nanotechnology belong in the map of science? Nat Nanotechnol 4:534–536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Porter AL, Youtie J (2009b) How interdisciplinary is nanotechnology? J Nanopart Res 11(5):1023–1041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Porter AL, Youtie J, Shapira P, Schoeneck DJ (2008) Refining search terms for nanotechnology. J Nanopart Res 10(5):715–728CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rafols I, Porter AL, Leydesdorff L (2010) Science overlay maps: a new tool for research policy and library management. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 61(9):1871–1887. doi: 10.1002/asi.21368Roco CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Roco M (2010) Long view of nanotechnology development at NSF. 2010 NSF nanoscale science and engineering grantees conference, Arlington, Virginia, 6–8 Dec 2010Google Scholar
  26. Roco M, Mirkin C, Hersam M (2011) Nanotechnology research directions for societal needs in 2020: retrospective and outlook. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Shapira P, Youtie J, Porter AL (2010) The emergence of social science research in nanotechnology. Scientometrics 85(2):595–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Van Eck NJ, Waltman L (2010) Software survey: VOSviewer, a computer program for bibliometric mapping. Scientometrics 84(2):523–538. doi: 10.1007/s11192-009-0146-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. van Eck NJ, Waltman L, Dekker R, van den Berg J (2010) A comparison of two techniques for bibliometric mapping: multidimensional scaling and VOS. J Am Soc Inf Sci Technol 61(12):2405–2416. doi: 10.1002/asi.21421 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wang L, Notten A, Surpatean A (2013) Interdisciplinarity of nano research fields: a keyword mining approach. Scientometrics 94:877–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Watts RJ, Porter AL (1997) Innovation forecasting. Technol Forecast Soc Change 56:25–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Watts DJ, Strogatz SH (1998) Collective dynamics of “small-world” networks. Nature 393(6684):440–442. doi: 10.1038/30918 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wood S, Jones R, Geldart A (2003) Nanotechnology: from the science to the social. The Economic and Social Research Council, LondonGoogle Scholar
  34. Wullweber J (2008) Nanotechnology an empty signifier à venir? Sci Technol Innov Stud 4(1):27–45Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanjay K. Arora
    • 1
  • Jan Youtie
    • 2
  • Stephen Carley
    • 1
  • Alan L. Porter
    • 1
  • Philip Shapira
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Public PolicyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Enterprise Innovation InstituteGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, Manchester Business SchoolUniversity of ManchesterManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations