Quantitative and Qualitative STS: The Intellectual and Practical Contributions of Scientometrics
35 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2015 Last revised: 13 Jan 2016
Date Written: December 18, 2015
We provide an overview of the common origins of qualitative and quantitative forms of STS, offering a discursive account of this history. We then demonstrate how scientometric techniques can be used to address substantive research questions, and we provide examples relevant both to the origins of STS and its state of the art. Our purpose is not to provide an exhaustive review of either qualitative or quantitative methods, as there exist many methods textbooks for both (e.g. Moed et al. 2004; Franklin 2012), although contemporary STS has tended to neglect methods. The final substantive section picks up the themes of “big data” and “reflexivity”, and also provides some reflection on the current use of indicators.
We argue for greater conciliation between qualitative and quantitative methods within STS, broadly defined. We suggest that such collaboration, by enriching the repertoire of methods available to STS scholars, provides opportunities for exploring new and old research questions. There are also two more pragmatic reasons for this plea for further integration of quantitative and qualitative approaches in STS. The first is the growing attention for “big data”, computational methods, and digital forms of representation of data and knowledge in the humanities and the social sciences (Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier 2013; Borgman 2015). The second reason, especially for those STS scholars based in the academy, is that a deeper understanding of scientometrics is necessary for making sense of and for formulating informed criticism about university rankings, evaluations and the audit culture within which academics work (Dahler-Larsen 2011; Hicks et al. 2015 (also known as ‘Leiden Manifesto’); Halffman and Radder 2015; Strathern 2000).
Keywords: STS, science studies, scientometrics, citation, Merton
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