published on PLoS ONE 15 (2), February 6, 2020 (Online)
Scientific agenda setting is critical at all levels of research, but can be strongly influenced by structural path dependencies of the science system itself. In this article we examine how knowledge production is shaped by interconnected path dependencies using the field of tropical marine sciences as a global case study. We use scientometric analysis methods on an original data set of 1328 peer-reviewed journal publications to examine publication trends including a co-authorship network analysis, links between author origin and research locations as well as a quantitative analysis of terminology use over space (i.e., region) and time. Scientometric findings are analytically discussed through a conceptual framework premised on theories of path dependency. Findings and critical analysis highlight how tropical marine science provides a prominent global example of how North American, European and Australian science programs predominantly shape knowledge production of the global science system, generating critical reflection on the path dependencies these create on current and likely future knowledge production and science agendas. Similar dependencies face other fields of science, and thus this study provides broadly relevant quantitative observational empirical findings supplemented with a critical social science analysis of how a transcultural Science and Technology Studies lens is useful for unpacking the webs of path dependencies driving, inhibiting and/ or shaping global knowledge production, placing meaning and context over observed empirical trends.