, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 171–194 | Cite as

Boundary-Work in the Health Research Field: Biomedical and Clinician Scientists’ Perceptions of Social Science Research

  • Mathieu Albert
  • Suzanne Laberge
  • Brian D. Hodges


Funding agencies in Canada are attempting to break down the organizational boundaries between disciplines to promote interdisciplinary research and foster the integration of the social sciences into the health research field. This paper explores the extent to which biomedical and clinician scientists’ perceptions of social science research operate as a cultural boundary to the inclusion of social scientists into this field. Results indicated that cultural boundaries may impede social scientists’ entry into the health research field through three modalities: (1) biomedical and clinician scientists’ unfavourable and ambivalent posture towards social science research; (2) their opposition to a resource increase for the social sciences; and (3) clinician scientists procedural assessment criteria for social science. The paper also discusses the merits and limitations of Tom Gieryn’s concept of boundary-work for studying social dynamics within the field of science.


Boundary-work Culture Health research Interdisciplinary research Scientific field Symbolic boundary 



This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, grant # KTE-72140. The authors wish to thank Jeannine Banack, Wendy McGuire, and Sarah White for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper, and Anne-Julie Houle for her help in coordinating the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mathieu Albert
    • 1
  • Suzanne Laberge
    • 2
  • Brian D. Hodges
    • 1
  1. 1.Wilson CentreUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Département de kinésiologieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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