Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tools for Calculating Academic Collaboration Distance

I think most of you have heard about the Erdös number. The Erdös number is the number of edges between you an Erdös in an author collaboration graph.
This is an undirected network where every published paper defines egdes between their authors. Having a low Erdös number somehow became a status symbol for researchers. Since Erdös already passed away, there is no way to get an Erdös number of one today, unless you hope for a Zombie apocalypse with the death rising:

Excerpt from "Apocalypse" by Randall Munroe at xkcd.com under CC-BY-NC 2.5

Due to Paul Erdös' outstanding publication productivity, there are quite a number of people with an Erdös number of 1, so if you find the right collaborator, you can reach an Erdös number of 2, if you like. But even beyond the fad on Erdös numbers, author collaboration graphs and distances between authors are an interesting way to define closeness between the work that two academics are doing.

What are good tools to calculate author collaboration distance?

There is MathSciNet, but their database only includes mathematical journals. Since my research is mostly published in computer science/embedded systems journals, this site doesn't work for me.
The zbMATH page offers a similar tool, again it seems to include only mathamatical journals. I should publish more there.

Previously, Microsoft Academic Research had a nice author collaboration search that graphically displayed the connections between any two authors. However, this feature is currently not available, since the page was restructured to work without the Silverlight plugin. I hope the feature comes back someday.

Distance calculator at csauthors.net

Currently, the best tool for computer scientists is the distance calculator at csauthors.net. It works with a database that seems to be more complete than the ones used by the sites cited above. The database is however far from being complete, so that distances are sometimes reported to be longer than they actually are.

My Erdös number

Thanks for asking! It is 3, for example via the following papers:

All papers are on the topic of networks or networked systems. How fitting.

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