The Abandonment of Book Publishing by Sociologists Exposed


Social scientists are increasingly publishing in academic journals rather than books, suggesting a weakening of critical interdisciplinary collaborations, a decade-long assessment of US research universities has concluded.

Book publications in 12 social science disciplines fell 34-54% during the 2010s, while journal article publications increased 64%, according to data compiled by the society’s research arm. Academic Analytics consultancy.

The results were published in the journal Plos One and presented as evidence that social scientists – as they embrace the analytical tools of the hard sciences – can lose valuable connections to the theoretical underpinnings of the humanities.

“We are seeing the marginalization or minorization of humanities-type research in the social sciences,” said co-author of the analysis, Anthony Olejniczak, director of the Academic Analytics Research Center.

The study addresses a long-standing and controversial debate, widely seen as pitting social scientists who are increasingly bringing advanced statistical tools to their assessments, against academics who view human beings as behaviors that are too varied and inconsistent to enable rigorous data-based conclusions and predictions. .

Dr. Olejniczak said neither he nor his study took direct sides in this debate. But the growing preference for academic journals among social scientists, he said, could mean that their statistical analyzes are increasingly developed without the theoretical underpinnings provided by more traditional understandings of the humanities.

“The way social scientists communicate increasingly resembles those who use technological solutions to larger problems,” Dr Olejniczak said. “Books aren’t just really long journal articles, in a nutshell, and different ways of knowing require different ways of telling,” he said.

The study was based on data from the 2010s at 280 US research universities. It covered the work of more than 1,500 university departments in 12 social science disciplines: anthropology; criminal justice and criminology; economy; educational psychology; geography; international affairs and development; political science; psychology; public administration; public policy; social work and social welfare; and sociology. The study’s comparisons involved peer-reviewed journal articles found in the CrossRef database and academic publications listed by the distribution company Baker & Taylor.

Statistical-laden social science research has grown significantly over the past two decades, likely due to the increased availability of large datasets of human activity, Dr. Olejniczak said.

The massive shift from books to journal articles appears to be strong indirect evidence for this shift, as data-driven research “lends itself to publication as hypothesis-driven articles,” he said. “Books, on the other hand, tend to be cross-disciplinary.”

A shift by researchers to fewer books and more journal articles could also save universities money, said Diana Hicks, a public policy professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology who studies the data underlying policy. science and technology. Academic libraries cannot afford to buy every book from an academic publisher, Prof Hicks said. “If books are limited to authors who really need the depth available in the longer form,” she said, “that would be a good thing, I think.”

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