Skip to main content

Distance and velocity measures: using citations to determine breadth and speed of research impact


Research that integrates the social and natural sciences is vital to address many societal challenges, yet is difficult to arrange, conduct, and disseminate. This paper compares diffusion of the research supported by a unique U.S. National Science Foundation program on Human and Social Dynamics (“HSD”) with a matched group of heavily cited papers. We offer a measure of the distance of cites between the Web of Science Category (“WoSC”) in which a publication appears and the WoSC of the journal citing it, and find that HSD publications are cited more distantly than are comparison publications. We provide another measure—citation velocity—finding that HSD publications are cited with similar lag times as are the comparison papers. These basic citation distance and velocity measures enrich analyses of research knowledge diffusion patterns.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  • Birnbaum-More, P. H., Rossini, F. A., & Baldwin, D. R. (Eds.). (1990). International research management. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boyack, K. W., Klavans, R., & Borner, K. (2005). Mapping the backbone of science. Scientometrics, 64, 351–374.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carley, S., & Porter, A. L. (2012). A forward diversity index. Scientometrics, 90(2), 407–427.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caruso, D., & Rhoten, D. (2001). Lead, follow, get out of the way: Sidestepping the barriers to effective practice of interdisciplinarity. San Francisco: The Hybrid Vigor Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chubin, D. E., Rossini, F. A., Porter, A. L., & Connolly, T. (Eds.). (1986). Interdisciplinary analysis and research. Mt Airy: Lomond.

    Google Scholar 

  • Falk-Krzesinski, H. J., Hall, K., Stokols, D., & Vogel, A. (2010). Science of team science. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. San Francisco: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garner, J., Porter, A. L., Borrego, M., Tran, E., & Teutonico, R. (2013). Facilitating social and natural science cross-disciplinarity: Assessing the human and social dynamics program. Research Evaluation, 134–144. doi:10.1093/reseval/rvt001.

  • Klein, J. T. (1996). Crossing boundaries: Knowledge, Disciplinarities and Interdisciplinarities. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klein, J. T. (2000). A conceptual vocabulary of interdisciplinary science. In P. Weingart & N. Stehr (Eds.), Practising interdisciplinarity (pp. 3–24). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leydesdorff, L. (2006). Can scientific journals be classified in terms of aggregated journal-journal citation relations using the Journal Citation Reports? Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57(5), 601–613.

  • National Academies Committee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy (COSEPUP). (2005). Facilitating interdisciplinary research. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ponomarev, I.,Williams, D. E., Hackett, C. J., Schnell, J. D., & Laak, L. I. (2012), Predicting highly cited papers: A method for early detection of candidate breakthroughs, Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

  • Porter, A. L. (1983). Interdisciplinary research: Current experience in policy and performance. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 8, 158–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Porter, A. L., Cohen, A. S., Roessner, J. D., & Perreault, M. (2007). Measuring researcher interdisciplinarity. Scientometrics, 72(1), 117–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Porter, A. L. & Garner, J. (2012), Annual Report to the U.S. National Science Foundation: Assessing the Interdisciplinarity and Research Networking Impacts of the Human and Social Dynamics (“HSD”) Priority Area Program [BCS-0968924].

  • Porter, A. L., & Rafols, I. (2009). Is science becoming more interdisciplinary? Measuring and mapping six research fields over time. Scientometrics, 81(3), 719–745.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Porter, A. L., Roessner, J. D., Cohen, A. S., & Perreault, M. (2006). Interdisciplinary research: Meaning metrics and nurture. Research Evaluation, 15(3), 187–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Porter, A. L., Roessner, J. D., & Heberger, A. E. (2008). How interdisciplinary is a given body of research? Research Evaluation, 17(4), 273–282.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Porter, A. L., Schoeneck, D. J., Roessner, D., & Garner, J. (2010). Practical research proposal and publication profiling. Research Evaluation, 19(1), 29–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rafols, I., & Leydesdorff, L. (2009). Content-based and algorithmic classifications of journals: Perspectives on the dynamics of scientific communication and indexer effects. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(2), 348–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rafols, I., & Meyer, M. (2009). Diversity and network coherence as indicators of interdisciplinarity: case studies in bionanoscience. Scientometrics, 82, 263–287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rossini, F. A., & Porter, A. L. (1979). Frameworks for integrating interdisciplinary research. Research Policy, 8, 70–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stirling, A. (2007). A general framework for analysing diversity in science, technology and society. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 4(15), 707–719.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stokols, D., Hall, K. L., Taylor, B. K., & Moser, R. P. (2008). The science of team science: Overview of the field and introduction to the supplement. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 35, S77–S89.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wagner, C. S., Roessner, J. D., Bobb, K., Klein, J. T., Boyack, K. W., Keyton, J., et al. (2011). Approaches to understanding and measuring interdisciplinary scientific research (IDR): A review of the literature. Journal of Informetrics, 5165, 14–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work was supported by the Directorate for Social, Behavioral & Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation (NSF) award: “EAGER: Assessing the Interdisciplinarity and Research Networking Impacts of the Human and Social Dynamics Priority Area Program [Award No. BCS-0968924]. The findings and observations contained in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research was undertaken at Search Technology, Inc.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jon Garner.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Garner, J., Porter, A.L. & Newman, N.C. Distance and velocity measures: using citations to determine breadth and speed of research impact. Scientometrics 100, 687–703 (2014).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Knowledge diffusion
  • Bibliometrics
  • Citation analysis
  • Diffusion score
  • Velocity measure
  • Distance measure

MSC Classification

  • 62, Statistics
  • 91, Game theory, economics, social and behavioral sciences