Variation in Valuation: How Research Groups Accumulate Credibility in Four Epistemic Cultures

Abstract

This paper aims to explore disciplinary variation in valuation practices by comparing the way research groups accumulate credibility across four epistemic cultures. Our analysis is based on case studies of four high-performing research groups representing very different epistemic cultures in humanities, social sciences, geosciences and mathematics. In each case we interviewed about ten researchers, analyzed relevant documents and observed a couple of meetings. In all four cases we found a cyclical process of accumulating credibility. At the same time, we found significant differences in the manifestation of the six main resources that are part of the cycle, the mechanisms of conversion between these resources, the overall structure and the average speed of the credibility cycle. The different ways in which the groups use data and produce arguments affect the whole cycle of accumulating credibility. In some cultures, journal publications are the main source of recognition, but in others one can earn significant amounts of recognition for conference contributions or service to the academic community. Moreover, the collaboration practices in the respective fields strongly influence the connection between arguments and publications. In cultures where teams of researchers collaboratively produce arguments, it is more strongly embedded in the process of writing publications. We conclude that the credibility cycle can only be used as an analytical tool to explain the behavior of researchers or research groups when taking differences across epistemic cultures into account.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    One of the weak points of the notion of cultures is its breadth and high level of abstractness. According to Gläser and colleagues, this implies that it has a limited explanatory power in sociology of science. They argue that a more precise definition of the concept is required to facilitate a meaningful comparison of different research cultures and offer a more detailed operationalization (Gläser et al. 2015). In this paper, we do not use epistemic cultures as an explanatory concept but rather as a heuristic tool to characterize different research areas.

  2. 2.

    The case studies were originally conducted as part of a project on excellent science (Hessels et al. 2016).

References

  1. Becher, Tony, and Paul R. Trowler. 2001. Academic tribes and territories, 2nd ed. Maidenhead, Berkshire: SRHE and Open University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Collins, Harry. 1992. Changing order: Replication and induction in scientific practice. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Costas, Rodrigo, Zohreh Zahedi, and Paul Wouters. 2015. The thematic orientation of publications mentioned on social media: Large-scale disciplinary comparison of social media metrics with citations. Aslib Journal of Information Management 67(3): 260–288. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-12-2014-0173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Cremonini, Leon, Edwin Horlings, and Laurens K. Hessels. 2017. Different recipes for the same dish: Comparing policies for scientific excellence across different countries. Science and Public Policy 45(2): 232–245. https://doi.org/10.1093/scipol/scx062.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Fochler, Maximilian. 2016. Variants of epistemic capitalism: Knowledge production and the accumulation of worth in commercial biotechnology and the academic life sciences. Science, Technology, & Human Values 41(5): 922–948.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Gläser, Jochen, Jana Bielick, Robert Jungmann, Grit Laudel, Eric Lettkemann, Grit Petschick, and Ulla Tschida. 2015. Research cultures as an explanatory factor. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Soziologie 40(3): 327–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Hessels, Laurens K., and Harro van Lente. 2011. Practical applications as a source of credibility: A comparison of three fields of Dutch academic chemistry. Minerva 49(2): 215–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Hessels, Laurens K., Harro van Lente, and Ruud E.H.M. Smits. 2009. In search of relevance: The changing contract between science and society. Science and Public Policy 36(5): 387–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Hessels, Laurens, Wout Scholten, Thomas Franssen, and Sarah De Rijcke. 2016. Excellent geld: De rol van excellentiesubsidies bij vier toponderzoeksgroepen in Nederland. The Hague: Rathenau Instituut.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Joly, Pierre-Benoit, and Vincent Mangematin. 1996. Profile of public laboratories, industrial partnerships and organisation of R & D: The dynamics of industrial relationships in a large research organisation. Research Policy 25(6): 901–922. https://doi.org/10.1016/0048-7333(96)00882-7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Knorr-Cetina, Karin D. 1982. Scientific communities or transepistemic arenas of research? A critique of quasi-economic models of science. Social Studies of Science 12: 101–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Knorr-Cetina, Karin D. 1999. Epistemic cultures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Lamont, Michèle. 2012. Toward a comparative sociology of valuation and evaluation. Annual Review of Sociology 38: 201–221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Larivière, Vincent, Nadine Desrochers, Benoît Macaluso, Philippe Mongeon, Adèle Paul-Hus, and Cassidy R. Sugimoto. 2016. Contributorship and division of labor in knowledge production. Social Studies of Science 46(3): 417–435.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. 1986. Laboratory life: The construction of scientific facts, 2nd ed. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Laudel, Grit, and Jochen Gläser. 2008. From apprentice to colleague: The metamorphosis of early career researchers. Higher Education 55(3): 387–406.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Laudel, Grit, and Jochen Gläser. 2014. Beyond breakthrough research: Epistemic properties of research and their consequences for research funding. Research Policy 43(7): 1204–1216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Leišytė, Liudvika. 2007. University governance and academic research: Case studies of research units in Dutch and English Universities. PhD thesis, University of Twente, Enschede.

  19. Lepori, Benedetto, Michael Wise, Diana Ingenhoff, and Alexander Buhmann. 2016. The dynamics of university units as a multi-level process. Credibility cycles and resource dependencies. Scientometrics 109(3): 2279–2301.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Merton, Robert K. 1968. The Matthew effect in science. Science 159(3810): 56–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Newman, M.E.J. 2004. Coauthorship networks and patterns of scientific collaboration. PNAS 101: 5200–5205.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Packer, K., and A. Webster. 1996. Patenting culture in science: Reinventing the scientific wheel of credibility. Science, Technology, & Human Values 21(4): 427–453.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Stark, David. 2011. The sense of dissonance: Accounts of worth in economic life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Strange, Kevin. 2008. Authorship: Why not just toss a coin? American Journal of Physiology: Cell Physiology 295(3): C567–C575. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpcell.00208.2008.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Tsai, Chin-Chang, Elizabeth A. Corley, and Barry Bozeman. 2016. Collaboration experiences across scientific disciplines and cohorts. Scientometrics 108(2): 505–529. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-016-1997-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Whitley, Richard. 2000. The intellectual and social organization of the sciences, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Whitley, Richard D. 1983. From the sociology of scientific communities to the study of scientists’ negotiations and beyond. Social Science Information 22(4–5): 681–720.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Wouters, Paul. 1997. Citation cycles and peer review cycles. Scientometrics 38(1): 39–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Leonie van Drooge for many stimulating discussions and Jochen Gläser for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Laurens K. Hessels.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hessels, L.K., Franssen, T., Scholten, W. et al. Variation in Valuation: How Research Groups Accumulate Credibility in Four Epistemic Cultures. Minerva 57, 127–149 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-018-09366-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Credibility
  • Epistemic culture
  • Valuation
  • Recognition