Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 72 ›› Issue (4): 737-752.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201704014

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Structural heterogeneity and proximity mechanism of global scientific collaboration network based on co-authored papers

Chengliang LIU1,2(), Qinchang GUI1(), Dezhong DUAN1,2, Meiyuan YIN1   

  1. 1. School of Urban and Regional Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200241, China
    2. Insititute for Innovation and Strategic Studies, East China Normal University, Shanghai 20062, China
  • Received:2016-06-14 Revised:2016-11-25 Online:2017-04-20 Published:2017-04-20
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41571123, No.41471108


Despite increasing importance of academic papers in global knowledge flows, the structural disparities and proximity mechanism related to international scientific collaboration network attracted little attention. To fill this gap, based on data mining from Thomson Reuters' Web of Science database in 2014, its heterogeneities in topology and space were portrayed using visualizing tools such as Pajek, Gephi, VOSviewer, and ArcGIS. Topologically, 211 countries and 9928 ties are involved in global scientific collaboration network, but the international network of co-authored relations is mono-centricand dominated by the United States. It exhibits some features of a "small-world" network with the smaller average path length of 1.56 and the extremely large cluster coefficient of 0.73 compared to its counterpart, as well as the better-fitting exponential distribution accumulative nodal degree. In addition, the entire network presents a core-periphery structure with hierarchies, which is composed of 13 core countries and the periphery of 198 countries. Spatially, densely-tied and high-output areas are mainly distributed in four regions: West Europe, North America, East Asia and Australia. Moreover, the spatial heterogeneity is also observed in the distributions of three centralities. Amongst these, the countries with greater strength centrality are mainly concentrated in North America (i.e. the US and Canada), Western Europe (i.e. the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain), and China, noticeably in the US, which forms the polarizing pattern with one superpower of the US and great powers such as China and the UK. Similarly, the big three regions consisting of West Europe, North America and Asian-Pacific region have the peak betweenness centrality as well. Slightly different from the two above, the distribution of nodal degree centrality is uneven in the world, although regional agglomeration of high-degree countries is still observed. Last but not least, the proximity factors of its structural inequalities were also verified by correlational analysis, negative binomial regression approach and gravity model of STATA. The findings further confirm that geographical distance has weakened cross-country scientific collaboration. Meanwhile, socio-economic proximity has a positive impact on cross-country scientific collaboration, while language proximity plays a negative role.

Key words: scientific collaboration network, structural heterogeneity, complex network