The emergence of the higher education research field (1976-2018): preferential attachment, smallworldness and fragmentation in its collaboration networks.

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Date: May 2021
From: Higher Education(Vol. 81, Issue 5)
Publisher: Springer
Document Type: Report
Length: 8,153 words
Lexile Measure: 1310L

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Abstract :

The field of higher education research is fast-growing, both in number of publications and in geographical reach. There is however limited evidence on how this growth in publication influences the structure of the underlying co-authorship network. This is important as structural network parameters can change quickly in a fast-growing network, leading to fundamental different network structures, e.g., in terms of hierarchy, fragmentation, and inequality. Ultimately, these network structures can influence the current and future innovation and knowledge production in the field. Empirically, we construct 34 different co-authorship networks of all authors published in 28 higher education journals listed in Web of Science between 1976 and 2018 and perform bibliometric network analyses. We find that the growth of publications and authors in the higher education research field leads to increased clustering among authors, creating a dense core of well-connected author clusters. At the same time, we observe an increasing inequality in the network. The co-authorship network is characterized by high fragmentation and reveals a core-periphery structure. Our analysis shows that co-authorship is a selective process, driven by a Matthew effect based on previous publications. As a result, core authors are unlikely to co-author with newer, less established authors. Moreover, we also detect a growing inequality in the average impact of an article. We conclude the paper by discussing possible explanations and by offering some suggestions for future research.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A660358208