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Here I'm not referring to research topics on that specific country (e.g. a study on high school in New Zealand would be very likely conducted by New Zealand researchers, for obvious reasons). An example of the kind of topic I'm thinking of is gravastars in modified gravity. (Gravastars are a hypothetical astrophysical object.) Google Scholar finds a thousand results, but every paper seems to be written by Pakistani or Indian researchers.

Why might a research topic like this be confined to two countries? Why might researchers from other countries not be interested in this topic?

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    "but every paper seems to be written by Pakistani or Indian researchers": Browsing through the list of papers behind the link you provided quickly lets me find authors from other countries than the two you mention. Have you investigated any further how the distribution actually is? Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 18:11
  • @Snijderfrey can you link those papers? I did notice some, but they're very rare; the great bulk are papers written by Pakistani or Indian researchers.
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 23:06
  • Also different terms may be used early on, similar ideas can emerge simultaneously but independently and initially thought of as different. I think I've spoken to some people who work on something similar but don't call it gravastars. Also different countries will reinforce whatever they are good at, and a self-selection process where local experts examine proposals and see the ones related to the work already in the country as the best options to fund (either because of personal beliefs or because there are already a number of experts nearby that the applicant can collaborate with). Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 23:37
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    In the case of the gravastars, there is a founder effect, where a single influential person talked up the topic a lot during some visits to south Asia, and regional interest in the topic snowballed from there. I don't know how much generalizes to other topics, however.
    – Buzz
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 6:54
  • @Buzz do you know who the single influential person is? Are they also from South Asia?
    – Allure
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 1:58

3 Answers 3

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It is an aspect of the Pareto Principle. That says that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. (Different situations will have different ratios.) The idea is, some people in any organization will be much more productive than others. This is sometimes called the Mathew principle for a line in the Christian bible in the book of Mathew. Roughly it says, to those with much, all will be given. From those with little, all will be taken.

There may be a Great Person of Science there who is working on the topic. And around this person are a group of "pretty good" people of science. People are clustered around the GPS because they produce a lot of ideas that then produce publications. People are always hungry for publications. So if the GPS likes a topic, the people around will tend to write about it, at least some of the time.

This then feeds back. Granting agencies (and various other bodies that hand out research money) will look at the group and think they deserve more money next year because they are so productive.

There are other feedbacks. Once the group is established, any time anybody wants to know about that topic, they will find they are looking up papers from that group. So they will want to visit that group, or get people from that group to visit them. They will be sending preprints for review. Their own granting agencies will be looking at the big name group for examples of good research on the topic. If there's a news publication (Astronomy Today or like that) looking for a quote they will find this big name group and try to get it from them.

And when bright young students look for a place to study, or a PhD supervisor, if they know a topic they will naturally want to go where that topic is most studied. So the group starts attracting strong students and expands their name that way.

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  • Adding to that, academia is not completely immune to the Not-Invented-Here Syndrome, which may actually cause negative feedbacks: people may notice the GPS, but since they didn't do their research "here", they can't possibly that great after all.
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Mar 23, 2023 at 16:47
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    Are you confident of this answer? The papers in the OP's topic come from the same country, but not the same institution; it seems unlikely there is a GPS.
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 1:10
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    This answer reminds me of the following story: I asked a colleague why so many Iranian researchers seem to 'like' fuzzy logic as a research topic. Answer: its founder is Lotfi Aliaskerzadeh. Commented Apr 1, 2023 at 21:59
  • @Allure Why are you referring to the OP as if it isn't you? Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 23:57
  • @AzorAhai-him- I'm using it to mean "original post" - so whatever is written in the question.
    – Allure
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 0:49
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At times, a research concept is born from a specific location. You might then have

  • local expertise built up
  • academic teaching in the topic in the locality (#preference)
  • methodological preference built up in the locality
  • slow uptake in other areas
  • national interest (dynamics)
  • regional agenda (political or research-politics)

In a global, fluid world as we have, some of this factors are not strong enough to force or warrant localities.

Regarding gravastars, I see well cited authors from New Zealand. I also see a strong pull around Pakistan (as you've indicated).
For gravastars modified gravity, there're diffusion towards Türkiye, Spain, States, Japan ...

Given what I see gravastars to be, is there perhaps a contending force of duality and alternative/replacement at play?

  • gravastars vis-a-vis black hole
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  • A related factor, at least in the context of countries like Pakistan, India etc: some research fields rely on expensive infrastructure and equipment that are difficult to access if you're not from a wealthy country. Thus one might expect to see large, less wealthy countries focussing on topics where there is scope for substantial contributions to be made using only modest resources.
    – avid
    Commented Apr 3, 2023 at 7:14
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In my experience, big research funding agencies are often interested in developing infrastructure and knowledge in a certain topic that they feel like it worths being expanded in their geopolitical area. Some examples:

  • In Europe, there is an interest in developing high-performance computing centers in the hopes that these centers might help economic growth down the line. Thus many research projects related to using HPC will get funded, and productivity in this research field will appear to spike in Europe.

  • In the US there was always an interest in nuclear physics because among all else, it can be utilized in energy production, and – okay, I'll say it – for national security. The same goes for countries like France and nuclear research.

  • Yet other countries are rich in a certain mineral or oil, and they'll fund research related to that natural resource.

  • Where I come from, solar panels are en vogue due to the generally sunny weather.

Finally, as mentioned by other writers above, sometimes it so happens that a big name simply lives in a location. Because they are productive, other researchers flock around them, etc.

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