Research ArticleSOCIAL SCIENCES

Cross-disciplinary evolution of the genomics revolution

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Science Advances  15 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaat4211
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat4211

Abstract

Born out of the Human Genome Project (HGP), the field of genomics evolved with phenomenal speed into a dominant scientific and business force. While other efforts were intent on estimating the economic impact of the genomics revolution, we shift focus to the social and cultural capital generated by bridging together biology and computing—two of the constitutive disciplines of “genomics”. We quantify this capital by measuring the pervasiveness of bio-computing cross-disciplinarity (XD) in genomics research during and after the HGP. To provide interlocking perspectives at the career and epistemic levels, we assembled three data sets to measure XD via (i) the collaboration network between 4190 biology and computing faculty from 155 departments in the United States, (ii) cross-departmental affiliations within a comprehensive set of human genomics publications, and (iii) the application of computational concepts and methods in research published in a preeminent genomics journal. Our results show the following: First, research featuring XD collaborations has higher citation impact than other disciplinary research—an effect observed at both the career and individual article levels. Second, genomics articles featuring XD methods tend to have higher citation impact than epistemically pure articles. Third, XD researchers of computing pedigree are drawn to the biology culture. This statistical evidence acquires deeper meaning when viewed against the organizational and knowledge transfer mechanisms revealed by the data models. With cross-disciplinary initiatives set to dominate the agenda of funding agencies, our case study provides a framework for appreciating the long-term effects of these initiatives on science and its standard-bearers.

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