Nanoscience and technology publications and patents: A review of social science studies and search strategies

C. Huang, A. Notten*, N. Rasters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We undertake a comprehensive review of more than 120 social science studies
on nanotechnology, 90% of which are based on the analyses of the nanotechnology pub-
lications and patents. We discussed four intellectual debates formed by these studies,
namely whether nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary field, whether nanoscience and
nanotechnology are closely interlinked, whether nanotechnology development is path
dependent and who is winning the global nanorace. We also conduct a comparative
analysis of bibliometric search strategies used in the literature to harvest the publications
and patents, including lexical queries, evolutionary lexical queries, citation analysis, and
the use of core journal sets to identify nanotechnology articles. Because most of the
compared strategies, except the one using 10 core journals in the field, share a core set of
keywords and thus harvest a common batch of publications, they produce very similar
ranking tables of the top subject areas and journals and the most prolific countries and
institutions. Moreover, the core journal strategy does not provide a robust delineation of an
emerging field such as nanotechnology due to the fact that nanotechnology related articles
are published in a wide range of journals. Also, the different criteria for selecting the core
journals will affect the analytical results dramatically.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-172
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Technology Transfer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011

JEL classifications

  • o14 - "Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology"
  • o30 - "Technological Change; Research and Development; Intellectual Property Rights: General"
  • o31 - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
  • o32 - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D


  • Nanotechnology
  • Research and development
  • Productivity
  • Publications
  • Patents
  • Bibliometric analysis
  • Data mining
  • Search strategy

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