Research Item (1)
This is a study on the diffusion of novel scientific ideas. We examine how scholarly communities mediate diffusion in the academic landscape. As a case study, we analyze the diffusion of a specific scientific idea, namely the ’Strength of Weak Ties’ hypothesis, introduced by Granovetter in his 1973 paper. Using Web of Science data, we construct a network of scholars who referenced Granovetter’s paper. By combining topic modeling, network analysis and close reading, we show that the diffusion network features communities of scholars who interpret and use Granovetter’s hypothesis in distinct ways. Such communities collaboratively interpret Granovetter’s hypothesis to amend it to their specific perspectives and interests. Our analysis further shows that communities are clustered around figureheads, i.e., scholars who are central within their communities and perform pivotal roles in translating the general hypothesis into their specific field. The larger implication of our study is that scientific ideas change as they spread. We argue that the methodology presented in this paper has potential beyond the scientific domain, particularly in the study of the diffusion of opinions, symbols, and ideas.