From Systems-Oriented to Biology-Oriented: History of Systems Biology from 1992 to 2013

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Yawen Zou, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Background: Systems biology, an interdisciplinary field which studies complex biological systems from a holistic perspective, has brought together biologists on one side, and computational scientists, engineers, chemists, and physicists on the other side. My goal is to understand (a) the way contributions of scholars from different fields have changed from 1992 to 2013, and (b) the historical and philosophical implications underlying this change. Methods: In the Web of Science, more than 9000 articles published between 1992 and 2013 were found to have the term “systems biology” in their topics. The articles were analyzed through a variety of computational tools and approaches, including co-citation analysis based on citation information and topic modeling based on abstracts. The results were then analyzed from both the historical and philosophical perspectives. Results: The results are as follows: a) co-citation analysis based on the references shows that biologists increased in percentage of participants and more biology-oriented articles were published in the field of systems biology, compared with engineers and scholars from fields other than biology and systems-oriented articles; b) research areas on high-throughput technologies, “omics” researches, and applications in medicine in turn were the drivers of the biology-oriented research from 1992 to 2013; c) topic modeling analysis based on the abstracts also shows that biology-oriented topics, such as medicine, vaccines and drugs, have been on the rise, further supporting the findings based on references. Conclusions: The literature suggests that systems biology has shifted from more systems-oriented to more biology-oriented from 1992 to 2013. If the trend continues, systems biology will become more integrated with other biological disciplines, especially medical research based on my findings of the recent rise in topics related to medicine.