What's the academic term for reinventing the wheel?
September 24, 2019 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Is there a concise term for when researcher/writers familiar in one field, "discover" or research something that is a cornerstone of another field, but either don't credit the other work or (more likely) aren't aware of it.

The classic example I'm familiar with (as a librarian) is when people figure out the value and power of controlled vocabularies but don't realize they are foundational tool to information management because they never considered it before. Other examples are this paper that "discovers" integration (math) through a medical application or this article that does scientometric/bibliometric analysis of transportation research, but doesn't actually call it that.

I know every field experiences this, so it seems like there would be a term for it. I don't want to reinvent the wheel on that one. Any ideas?
posted by kendrak to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Multiple Discovery?
posted by zamboni at 10:05 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I am in industrial rather than academic research, but we just call it reinventing the wheel.
posted by dfan at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


A brilliant colleague of mind once called it “kicking down an open door.” Not sure if that’s an official term, though.
posted by fiery.hogue at 10:37 AM on September 24, 2019 [16 favorites]


Old wine in a new bottle?
posted by Che boludo! at 11:00 AM on September 24, 2019


You could (figuratively and charitably) call it convergent evolution.
posted by caek at 12:19 PM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


Westheimer's Discovery: "A month in the laboratory can often save an hour in the library."
posted by alex1965 at 4:10 PM on September 24, 2019 [9 favorites]


I think the term you want is "prior art".
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:31 PM on September 24, 2019


Other examples are this paper that "discovers" integration (math) through a medical application

That's mind boggling. My god. In a real journal? I mean, how??!!? And it was cited......

We call those No Shit Sherlock papers, I work in an inter disciplinary field so see a lot of them. No one has reinvented calculus so far though.
posted by fshgrl at 12:12 AM on September 25, 2019


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