One model for knowledge development is the network interaction model. Insofar as socio-technical networks may have some structural properties, does knowledge development reflect this? The hypothesis that it does may enable us to make some forecasts of science development from a description of the state of a field. One condition necessary for testing this hypothesis is that of adopting a model for these networks. Co-word analysis is such a tool. It gives us key-words networks derived from scientific and technical texts. The author checks for network properties in the area of knowledge development through a case study of Polymer Science and Technology from 1973 to 1978.
In this paper, we will study the field through the problematic network built by scientific articles, using actor-network theory (and consequently coword analysis) as a model for scientific knowledge (regarded as a social process) growth. Scientometrics is an hybrid field made of invisible college and a lot of users, thus controlled by both scientific research and final uses. Coword analysis gives the same weight to all articles, cited or not, and consequently computes the interaction network within all kind of authors. According to already described network properties of scientific interaction, coword analysis describes the dynamic of the field in accordance with what has been observed, and suggest forecast for the future.
We use co-word analysis in a retrospective study of the transformation of the knowledge network in the field of polymer science from 1973 to 1976. The results of this study lead us to propose a model of change in the field. This model is based on the observation that the interaction of several networks gives rise to a sub-network that is at first central and then - and this is what the model allows us to predict — central and developed (without its precise content being predictable). Such sub-networks begin in regions of the network of central associated words where there are numerous holes or incomplete links. The model appears to be sufficiently robust statistically that it does not miss significant transformations and it suggests a way of predicting knowledge development. A comparison is made with other models of network transformation, such as the contagion model and the model of local structural equivalence.
We advance the following hypothesis with respect to the construction of scientific knowledge: a) a scientific article may
be seen as bringing together differing knowledge networks within the same experimental context; b) the researcher attempts
to prove the existence of objective links within this context. This process allows the researcher to link or associate his
own subjective proposals to those that are verifiably objective relationships for all researchers. Researchers consolidate
the relationships put forward by others accordingly. There is a statistic method which makes it possible to demonstrate these
dynamics, i.e., co-word analysis. This method, applied to articles on autism, has provided results that support this hypothesis.
The methods brought to bear by the majority of researchers follow these general dynamics.
The co-word method (Leximappe programme) is used to illustrate the essential themes of intermational research based on the computer analysis of databases of scientific articles and patents. Further, we illustrate that these themes often follow characteristic cycles. Research projects submitted to a research funding organisation were subjected to a similar analysis. It was then possible in one sense to evaluate the relevance of funding support, particularly in terms of the degree of maturity of international research.
To analyse developments of scientific fields, scientometrics provides useful tools, provided one is prepared to take the content of scientific articles into account. Such cognitive scientometrics is illustrated by using as data a ten-year period of articles from a biotechnology core journal. After coding with key-words, the relations between articles are brought out by co-word analysis. Maps of the field are given, showing connections between areas and their change over time, and with respect to the institutions in which research is performed. In addition, other approaches are explored, including an indicator of theoretical level of bodies of articles.
Co-word analysis applied to patents through WPIL normalized title words appears to give a useful picture of a given field: we obtain both qualitative (themes) and quantitative information (weight of themes). It also gives information about the strategic aspects of the themes. Furthermore, in some cases, it is an indication of the future of certain themes that may help forecasting and management studies. Finally, it provides information about what could be a real technology growth process, in relation to the so-called translation model used in co-word analysis.
Authors:M. Jagodzinski-Sigogneau, J. Courtial, and B. Latour
The French bibliographic data-base PASCAL is used to study relations between Research Systems in terms of dependance of a periphery upon a Center.The deployment of disciplines, the productivity and the use of mother tongue of 9 developped countries are quantified (on the Life Science file only).This dependance is also quantified by reference to who studies whom, and in which language the results are available. A search in Life Science and Earth Science files by means of subject terms added by PASCAL indexers at input to papers published by 5 developped countries working on fourteen Latino-american and African countries.
Review articles in the field of polymer science in the seventies are analyzed in order to check their usefulness in describing at a very low cost the development or the state of the art of a field. Results are compared with those obtained through a quantitative study of scientific articles published at the same time in the field. Review articles can be regarded as defining a research programme attempting to link together two networks: polymer properties—as being desirable from market considerations—and polymer structure—as being analyzable by means of academic science, through three kinds of translation strategies. If we thus define a research programme in terms of the mobilization of networks, it is possible to say of review articles that they provide a good representation of the development of networks of problems whose evolution they sketch.