Don R. Swanson, Neil R. Smalheiser
Two literatures or sets of articles are complementary if, considered together, they can reveal useful information of scientific interest not apparent in either of the two sets alone. Of particular interest are complementary literatures that are also mutually isolated and noninteractive (they do not cite each other and are not co-cited). In that case, the intriguing possibility arises that the information gained by combining them is novel. During the past decade, we have identified seven examples of complementary noninteractive structures in the biomedical literature. Each structure led to a novel, plausible, and testable hypothesis that, in several cases, was subsequently corroborated by medical researchers through clinical or laboratory investigation. We have also developed, tested, and described a systematic, computer-sided approach to finding and identifying complementary noninteractive literatures.