Finding Patterns in Scientific Journals

The last topic models I showed for the Journal of the American Chemical Society showed topics across the entire corpus I have (all issues between 1879 and 1922). Now, I have been working on seeing if there are any patterns in the topics from year to year.  Since I ran a 20 topic model using Mallet, the list is quite long, so I created another page for those who want to look at the original data.  For now, I’ll just summarize what I think is happening.  First a few general points.

  • The word molecule first appears within a topic in 1883 and in 1891 it appears in three different topics.  It continues to appear throughout the corpus but not regularly.
  • The word atom first appears in a topic for 1880 and seems to appear more regularly than molecule.
  • The word patent first appears in 1884 but then does not show up all that frequently (only 6 times within the topic models and only until 1892).
  • Many years, though not all, also have topics that seem to pertain to the business of the society with words like journal, meeting, or city names.  Interestingly this was also one of the topics in the overall model, but it is interesting to see how the topic seems to be more dominant in some years than in others.
  • The word method shows up in the topics practically every year and seems to appear more frequently in the earlier years of the journal.

These are just some general observations from admittedly someone who is not trained as a chemist.  There may be other interesting issues that might be clearer to a trained eye.  For my next steps on this project I intend to look at two sources on the history of Chemistry:

There may be other sources, but I think I can at least try to show a proof of concept on these two. Hopefully, there is some way to measure what the topic models are showing against what these more general histories say is happening in the history of the society and in chemistry more generally.

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