Do Nobel Laureates Create Prize-Winning Networks? An Analysis of Collaborative Research in Physiology or Medicine

Caroline S. Wagner, Edwin Horlings, Travis A. Whetsell, Pauline Mattson, Katarina Nordqvist

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Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine who received the Prize between 1969 and 2011 are compared to a matched group of scientists to examine productivity, impact, coauthorship and international collaboration patterns embedded within research networks. After matching for research domain, h-index, and year of first of publication, we compare bibliometric statistics and network measures. We find that the Laureates produce fewer papers but with higher average citations. The Laureates also produce more sole-authored papers both before and after winning the Prize. The Laureates have a lower number of coauthors across their entire careers than the matched group, but are equally collaborative on average. Further, we find no differences in international collaboration patterns. The Laureates coauthor network reveals significant differences from the non-Laureate network. Laureates are more likely to build bridges across a network when measuring by average degree, density, modularity, and communities. Both the Laureate and non-Laureate networks have “small world” properties, but the Laureates appear to exploit “structural holes” by reaching across the network in a brokerage style that may add social capital to the network. The dynamic may be making the network itself highly attractive and selective. These findings suggest new insights into the role "star scientists" in social networks and the production of scientific discoveries.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0134164
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2015


  • collaboration
  • network analysis
  • visualisation
  • nobel prize


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