, Volume 109, Issue 2, pp 629–659 | Cite as

Research diversification and impact: the case of national nanoscience development

  • Patrick Herron
  • Aashish Mehta
  • Cong Cao
  • Timothy Lenoir


Newcomer nations, promoted by developmental states, have poured resources into nanotechnology development, and have dramatically increased their nanoscience research influence, as measured by research citation. Some achieved these gains by producing significantly higher impact papers rather than by simply producing more papers. Those nations gaining the most in relative strength did not build specializations in particular subfields, but instead diversified their nanotechnology research portfolios and emulated the global research mix. We show this using a panel dataset covering the nanotechnology research output of 63 countries over 12 years. The inverse relationship between research specialization and impact is robust to several ways of measuring both variables, the introduction of controls for country identity, the volume of nanoscience research output (a proxy for a country’s scientific capability) and home-country bias in citation, and various attempts to reweight and split the samples of countries and journals involved. The results are consistent with scientific advancement by newcomer nations being better accomplished through diversification than specialization.


Diversification Specialization Impact Nanotechnology Nanoscience Developmental state 

JEL Classification

O10 O25 O30 



We are grateful to Richard Appelbaum, Matthew Gebbie, Shirley Han, Barbara Harthorn, Luciano Kay, Sumita Pennathur and Galen Stocking for support and for useful discussions of our results. Rachael Drew, Quinn McCreight, Caitlin Vejby and Chris Wegemer provided invaluable research assistance. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. SES 0531184. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work was conducted under the auspices of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Center for Nanotechnology in Society (


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick Herron
    • 1
  • Aashish Mehta
    • 2
  • Cong Cao
    • 3
  • Timothy Lenoir
    • 4
  1. 1.Information Science + StudiesDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Global Studies/Center for Nanotechnology in SocietyUniversity of California-Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.School of Contemporary Chinese StudiesUniversity of Nottingham NingboNingboChina
  4. 4.Science & Technology StudiesUniversity of California-DavisDavisUSA

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