An empirical investigation of the Tribes and their Territories: are research specialisms rural and urban?

06/26/2018 ∙ by Giovanni Colavizza, et al. ∙ 0

We propose an operationalization of the rural and urban analogy introduced in Becher and Trowler [2001]. According to them, a specialism is rural if it is organized into many, smaller topics of research, with higher author mobility among them, lower rate of collaboration and productivity, lower competition for resources and citation recognitions compared to an urban specialism. It is assumed that most humanities specialisms are rural while science specialisms are in general urban: we set to test this hypothesis empirically. We first propose an operationalization of the theory in most of its quantifiable aspects. We then consider specialisms from history, literature, computer science, biology, astronomy. Our results show that specialisms in the humanities present a sensibly lower citation and textual connectivity, in agreement with their organization into more, smaller topics per specialism, as suggested by the analogy. We argue that the intellectual organization of rural specialisms might indeed be qualitative different from urban ones, discouraging the straightforward application of citation-based indicators commonly applied to urban specialisms without a dedicated re-design in acknowledgement of these differences.

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