The Erdős number is the academic collaboration distance someone has to Paul Erdős. MathSciNet has a tool to calculate the collaboration distance between two mathematicians (where one may or may not be Erdős). Alas, I am not a mathematician, and if I have an Erdős number at all, it's probably quite large. But the concept of collaboration distance is, of course, not limited to mathematics.

Erdős number
Source: Wikimedia Commons, user h2g2bob, cc-by-sa

Are there any online tools to calculate the collaboration distance between two arbitrary scientists, whether in mathematics or not? In principle this should be possible using any large database of scientific publications. It would be fun to know if I have an Erdős number, or what my distance (and the route!) is to famous scientists in my field.

Microsoft Academic Search provides a way to compare the connections between two authors. From the profile page of an author, you can click on the "co-author graph", and then on the tab co-author path, which allows you to search for all connections between the author and another one.

For instance, this is the co-author path between Paul Erdös and Jeffrey Ullman. I don't know how extensive is the graph for other fields than Computer Science though.

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    Hmm, that requires Microsoft Silverlight. :( – gerrit Oct 1 '13 at 16:27
  • @gerrit Sorry about that, it works fine on my Mac. Perhaps you can have a look at Pipelight, which seems to enable Silverlight on Linux (assuming you're on Linux). – user102 Oct 2 '13 at 9:24
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    Microsoft dropped the graph feature when they revamped their academic search. :( – sjl May 9 '17 at 9:52

I have been using https://www.csauthors.net/distance for a few years now. It seems to work decent considering I am not a mathematician either. However, it does not work on your name :(

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    This one does not work well for me (gives me a smaller number than my true number.) One of my co-authors has a very common (Chinese) name and this tool isn't able to distinguish between different authors with that name. – ff524 Dec 24 '15 at 3:16
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    It did work very well for me. – Martin Thoma Jun 5 '16 at 16:33

While it's always pretty difficult to offer a definitive “no” as answer to such a question, I'll go on an limb and say it here:

No, the mathematical community is the only large scale community to feature comprehensive collaboration database, and ways to query the collaboration graph. None of the widely used general publication or citation databases offer such a feature (I checked Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar). Field-specific databases in other fields (such as PubMed, SciFinder, etc.) do not offer them either.

VOSviewer is a free (however not online) tool developed at Leiden University that can be used to create maps based on network data. Although it does not have any function for the Erdös number, it provides capabilities to view collaboration networks. The example below (taken from the VOS-viewer web page) shows an overview of the scientific world through relations among 5000 major scientific journals. Visit the web-page for more details on the software and additional examples.

Image from VOSviewer example at VOSviewer web page

  • I think it's a nice visualization tool, but it doesn't feature “collaboration networks”, unlike you said… it provides plenty of other (interesting) graphs, but not that particular type. – F'x Oct 1 '13 at 21:17

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