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Investigating scientific mobility in co-authorship networks using multilayer temporal motifs

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 October 2021

Hanjo D. Boekhout*
Department of Computer Science (LIACS), Leiden University, The Netherlands (e-mail: Centre for Science & Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University, The Netherlands (e-mail:
Vincent A. Traag
Centre for Science & Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University, The Netherlands (e-mail:
Frank W. Takes
Department of Computer Science (LIACS), Leiden University, The Netherlands (e-mail:
*Corresponding author. Email:
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This paper introduces a framework for understanding complex temporal interaction patterns in large-scale scientific collaboration networks. In particular, we investigate how two key concepts in science studies, scientific collaboration and scientific mobility, are related and possibly differ between fields. We do so by analyzing multilayer temporal motifs: small recurring configurations of nodes and edges.

Driven by the problem that many papers share the same publication year, we first provide a methodological contribution: an efficient counting algorithm for multilayer temporal motifs with concurrent edges. Next, we introduce a systematic categorization of the multilayer temporal motifs, such that each category reflects a pattern of behavior relevant to scientific collaboration and mobility. Here, a key question concerns the causal direction: does mobility lead to collaboration or vice versa? Applying this framework to scientific collaboration networks extracted from Web of Science (WoS) consisting of up to 7.7 million nodes (authors) and 94 million edges (collaborations), we find that international collaboration and international mobility reciprocally influence one another. Additionally, we find that Social sciences & Humanities (SSH) scholars co-author to a greater extent with authors at a distance, while Mathematics & Computer science (M&C) scholars tend to continue to collaborate within the established knowledge network and organization.

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© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press


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