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# The latent structure of global scientific development

## Abstract

Science is essential to innovation and economic prosperity. Although studies have shown that national scientific development is affected by geographic, historic and economic factors, it remains unclear whether there are universal structures and trajectories of national scientific development that can inform forecasting and policy-making. Here, by examining the scientific ‘exports’—publications that are indexed in international databases—of countries, we reveal a three-cluster structure in the relatedness network of disciplines that underpin national scientific development and the organization of global science. Tracing the evolution of national research portfolios reveals that while nations are proceeding to more diverse research profiles individually, scientific production is increasingly specialized in global science over the past decades. By uncovering the underlying structure of scientific development and connecting it with economic development, our results may offer a new perspective on the evolution of global science.

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## Acknowledgements

L.M., D.M. and Y.Y.A. acknowledges funding support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award no. FA9550-19-1-0391. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We thank S. Milojević, J. Yoon, S. Kojaku, B.-K. Lee, B. Weinberg, P. Stephan, S. Schnell, T. Zhou, J. Huang, J. Gao, Y. Bu, Q. Zhang, B. Uzzi, H. Youn and N. Dehmamy for helpful discussion and comments.

## Author information

Authors

### Contributions

L.M. and D.M. conceived the study. All authors contributed to the design of the study. V.L. prepared the primary datasets. L.M., D.M., V.L. and Y.Y.A. performed analysis. All authors contributed to the interpretation of the results and writing of the manuscript.

### Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yong-Yeol Ahn.

## Ethics declarations

### Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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### Peer review information

Nature Human Behaviour thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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## Supplementary information

### Supplementary Information

Supplementary text, Figs. 1–9, Tables 1–7 and references.

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Miao, L., Murray, D., Jung, WS. et al. The latent structure of global scientific development. Nat Hum Behav (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01367-x

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• DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-022-01367-x