For one line of research, the BarabásiLab relied on data drawn from the massive record of all scientific publications published since 1900 to identify the quantitative patterns that drive individual success in science. During the course of the study, the team developed multiple tools and visualizations to capture the evolution of a scientific career and explore the conditions necessary for the emergence of a high-impact discovery. The resulting visualizations show the careers of hundreds of scientists, depicting their patterns of creativity over time. Each line corresponds to the publishing career of a single scientist.
Deviations from the line capture the impact of each work within a scientist’s career. Large deviations correspond to the coveted, high-impact career-defining publications. Some of the excessively wavy lines highlight the few scientists who have changed the course of science. The images illustrate not only the exceptional disparity of impact, but also just how rare career-defining breakthroughs actually are.