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The concept of decentralization through time and disciplines: a quantitative exploration

Di Bona, G., Bracci, A., Perra, N. , Latora, V. & Baronchelli, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-0255-0829 (2023). The concept of decentralization through time and disciplines: a quantitative exploration. EPJ Data Science, 12(1), article number 42. doi: 10.1140/epjds/s13688-023-00418-1


Decentralization is a pervasive concept found across disciplines, including Economics, Political Science, and Computer Science, where it is used in distinct yet interrelated ways. Here, we develop and publicly release a general pipeline to investigate the scholarly history of the term, analysing 425,144 academic publications that refer to (de)centralization. We find that the fraction of papers on the topic has been exponentially increasing since the 1950s. In 2021, 1 author in 154 mentioned (de)centralization in the title or abstract of an article. Using both semantic information and citation patterns, we cluster papers in fields and characterize the knowledge flows between them. Our analysis reveals that the topic has independently emerged in the different fields, with small cross-disciplinary contamination. Moreover, we show how Blockchain has become the most influential field about 10 years ago, while Governance dominated before the 1990s. In summary, our findings provide a quantitative assessment of the evolution of a key yet elusive concept, which has undergone cycles of rise and fall within different fields. Our pipeline offers a powerful tool to analyze the evolution of any scholarly term in the academic literature, providing insights into the interplay between collective and independent discoveries in science.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Publisher Keywords: Decentralisation; Science of science; Interdisciplinary; Knowledge flows; Complex networks
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
J Political Science
Q Science > QA Mathematics
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Mathematics
SWORD Depositor:
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