Mapping Science… & everything else

Science-Metrix, an independent consulting firm “specializing in the assessment of science and technology (S&T) organizations and activities,” has provided a visualization of the connections between scientific disciplines/subfields and the rest of academic research areas. The tool and its various iterations are available here.

While the tools and mapping are based on solid bibliometric research, it is strange that in attempting to represent the ontology of science (ontology in terms of its meaning in information science), academic disciplines and subfields in the humanities and social sciences are also included. But relevant literature (see annotated bibliography at bottom of page) reveals a consensus that the social sciences and, to a much greater degree, the humanities are poorly represented in Scopus and Web of Knowledge databases. To whit: as it appears in the Map of Science, the field of Anthropology only cites and is cited by Archaeology and Cultural Studies, but not Folklore, History, Sociology, or Language & Linguistics. Intuitively, this is nonsensical.

Bibliometric analysis comes with a host of caveats that are lacking in this representation of the flow of information, most notably an explanation of the exclusionary nature of citation measures. What is counted is only publications in citation databases and citations of those publications, and what is excluded is the knowledge gained and transferred from a suite of influential scholarship, such as books, patents, technological innovations recounted in gray literature, policy recommendations, and direct transactions between academic researchers and members of the public who utilize that research, to name a few.

The team at Science-Metrix has promulgated a tool that grossly misrepresents a large portion of diverse and relevant academic research, both in the sciences and throughout other academic disciplines.

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