Long-term trends in the multidisciplinarity of some typical natural and social sciences, and its implications on the SSH versus STM distinction

Abstract

Macro-level domains of the science system, usually referred to as STM and SSH disciplines, have often been contrasted from various perspectives, regarding the characteristic composition of their publication channels, referencing or communication practices, and the related consequences in research evaluation. It is also long been conjectured that social science fields (along with the humanities) are more multidisciplinary than natural science fields, regarding their patterns of scholarly communication (“multidisciplinarity thesis”). The main goal of the study reported in this paper is twofold: (1) to revisit the differences in multidisciplinarity between the SSH versus STM domain, via a long-term longitudinal survey including the most recent trends, and (2) to utilize, for this task, state-of-the-art metrics and models of Interdisciplinary Research, taking into account their limitations, that is, the data sources that most naturally feed these models (typically the Web of Science). Our conclusions provides further confirmation, from the perspective of multidisciplinarity, that the concepts of SSH and STM are mainly tools for communication, rather than empirically valid constructs.

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

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

References

  1. Archambault, É., Vignola-Gagné, É., Côté, G., Larivière, V., & Gingrasb, Y. (2006). Benchmarking scientific output in the social sciences and humanities: The limits of existing databases. Scientometrics, 68(3), 329–342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Garner, J., Porter, A. L., Borrego, M., Tran, E., & Teutonico, R. (2013). Facilitating social and natural science cross-disciplinarity: Assessing the human and social dynamics program. Research Evaluation, 22(2), 134–144.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Gingras, Y., & Larivière, V. (2010). The historical evolution of interdisciplinarity: 1900–2008. In 11th International conference on science and technology indicators (p. 100).

  4. Glänzel, W., & Schoepflin, U. (1999). A bibliometric study of reference literature in the sciences and social sciences. Information Processing and Management, 35, 31–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Gough, I. (2001). Social assistance regimes: a cluster analysis. Journal of European social policy, 11(2), 165–170.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Harzing, A. W. (2013). Document categories in the ISI Web of Knowledge: Misunderstanding the social sciences? Scientometrics, 94(1), 23–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Hicks, D. (1999). The difficulty of achieving full coverage of international social science literature and the bibliometric consequences. Scientometrics, 44(2), 193–215.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Hicks, D. (2004). The four literatures of social science. Handbook of quantitative science and technology research (pp. 473-496).

  9. Hicks, D. (2006). The dangers of partial bibliometric evaluation in the social sciences. Economia politica, 23(2), 145–162.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Huutoniemi, K., Rafols, I. (2017-03-06). Interdisciplinarity in Research Evaluation. Oxford Handbooks Online. Retrieved 14 May 2017.

  11. Larivière, V., Archambault, É., Gingras, Y., & Vignola-Gagné, É. (2006). The place of serials in referencing practices: Comparing natural sciences and engineering with social sciences and humanities. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 57(8), 997–1004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Levitt, J. M., Thelwall, M., & Oppenheim, C. (2011). Variations between subjects in the extent to which the social sciences have become more interdisciplinary. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 62(6), 1118–1129.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Leydesdorff, L., & Rafols, I. (2011). Indicators of the interdisciplinarity of journals: Diversity, centrality, and citations. Journal of Informetrics, 5(1), 87–100.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Leydesdorff, L., Rafols, I., & Chen, C. (2013). Interactive overlays of journals and the measurement of interdisciplinarity on the basis of aggregated journal–journal citations. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 64(12), 2573–2586.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Nederhof, A. J. (2006). Bibliometric monitoring of research performance in the Social Sciences and the Humanities: A review. Scientometrics, 66(1), 81–100.

    MathSciNet  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Porter, A. L., Cohen, A. S., Roessner, J. D., & Perreault, M. (2007). Measuring researcher interdisciplinarity. Scientometrics, 72(1), 117–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Porter, A., & Rafols, I. (2009). Is science becoming more interdisciplinary? Measuring and mapping six research fields over time. Scientometrics, 81(3), 719–745.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Rafols, I., Leydesdorff, L., O’Hare, A., Nightingale, P., & Stirling, A. (2012a). How journal rankings can suppress interdisciplinary research: A comparison between innovation studies and business & management. Research Policy, 41(7), 1262–1282.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Rafols, I., Leydesdorff, L., O’Hare, A., Nightingale, P., & Stirling, A. (2012b). How journal rankings can suppress interdisciplinary research: A comparison between innovation studies and business & management. Research Policy, 41(7), 1262–1282.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Rafols, I., Porter, A. L., & Leydesdorff, L. (2010). Science overlay maps: A new tool for research policy and library management. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61(9), 1871–1887.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Rogerson, P. (2001). Statistical methods for geography. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Small, H., & Crane, D. (1979). Specialties and disciplines in science and social science: An examination of their structure using citation indexes. Scientometrics, 1(5–6), 445–461.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Soós, S., & Kampis, G. (2011). Towards a typology of research performance diversity: the case of top Hungarian players. Scientometrics, 87(2), 357–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Soós, S., & Kampis, G. (2012). Beyond the basemap of science: mapping multiple structures in research portfolios: evidence from Hungary. Scientometrics, 93(3), 869–891.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Stirling, A. (2007). A general framework for analysing diversity in science, technology and society. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface, 4(15), 707–719.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Wagner, C. S., Roessner, J. D., Bobb, K., Klein, J. T., Boyack, K. W., Keyton, J., et al. (2011). Approaches to understanding and measuring interdisciplinary scientific research (IDR): A review of the literature. Journal of Informetrics, 5(1), 14–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Wang, J., Thijs, B., & Glänzel, W. (2015). Interdisciplinarity and impact: distinct effects of variety, balance, and disparity. PLoS One, 10(5), e0127298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Yegros-Yegros, A., Rafols, I., & D’Este, P. (2015). Does interdisciplinary research lead to higher citation impact? The different effect of proximal and distal interdisciplinarity. PLoS One, 10(8), e0135095.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the European Commission under the FP7 Grant No. 613202 (IMPACT-EV project).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sándor Soós.

Appendix

Appendix

Annual trends in the percentage share of references to serials in all references to the last 5 years.

Sciences

See Figs. 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Fig. 7
figure7

Emergency Medicine

Fig. 8
figure8

Mathematical Physics

Fig. 9
figure9

Nanoscience and Technology

Fig. 10
figure10

Soil Science

Fig. 11
figure11

Spectroscopy

Social sciences

See Figs. 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

Fig. 12
figure12

Economics

Fig. 13
figure13

Information and Library Science

Fig. 14
figure14

Political Science

Fig. 15
figure15

Social Psychology

Fig. 16
figure16

Sociology

Arts and humanities

See Figs. 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Fig. 17
figure17

Architecture

Fig. 18
figure18

History and Philosophy of Science

Fig. 19
figure19

Music

Fig. 20
figure20

Poetry

Fig. 21
figure21

Religion

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Soós, S., Vida, Z. & Schubert, A. Long-term trends in the multidisciplinarity of some typical natural and social sciences, and its implications on the SSH versus STM distinction. Scientometrics 114, 795–822 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-017-2589-2

Download citation

Keywords

  • Trends
  • SSH
  • STM
  • Social sciences and humanities
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Multidisciplinarity
  • IDR
  • Science overlay maps
  • Diversity
  • Review papers