The operationalization of a journal set for the delineation of an interdisciplinary specialty: the case of Communication Studies

Loet Leydesdorff loet at LEYDESDORFF.NET
Tue Nov 25 13:10:32 EST 2008

Dear David, 
The paper is rather methodological, but solves an important problem in the
field (and perhaps also in the library) because the ISI Subject Categories
are defined for a different purpose (as explained in the paper).
At the substantial level, I happen to work at the office for the last eight
years between the two tribes. Both sides know that they need each other for
constructing the new discipline of communication studies, but particularly
in education programs a lot has often to be negotiated. For example, you may
have to supervise a MA Thesis of a student who has the "wrong" training in
methods. Social psychologists and political scientists both use SPSS, but
the emphases are very different.  
As an information scientist, I am amazingly much more used to considering
communications as units of analysis than both of these groups. Attributes to
communications, for example, are often skewedly distributed, while
attributes of human being are often normally distributed. 
Nevertheless, there is a very strong sense of an intellectual program that
will eventually manage to be disciplinary. The numbers of students, of
course, are overwhelming. Thus, I would say that this is not a migration of
ideas, but the interdisciplinary phase of an emerging specialty. We had
something similar before the relations between science studies, information
science, and library science became cleared up. This may take a decade or
Best wishes, 

Loet Leydesdorff 
Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR), 
Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam. 
Tel.: +31-20- 525 6598; fax: +31-20- 525 3681 
 <mailto:loet at> loet at ;



From: ASIS&T Special Interest Group on Metrics
[mailto:SIGMETRICS at LISTSERV.UTK.EDU] On Behalf Of David E. Wojick
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 5:26 PM
Subject: Re: [SIGMETRICS] The operationalization of a journal set for the
delineation of an interdisciplinary specialty: the case of Communication

Dear Loet,

In all this research is a distinction made between true interdisciplinary
work versus the migration of ideas? The two might have similar citation
patterns, which would confound the analysis.

The difficulty is that here is a significant ongoing migration of ideas from
discipline to discipline. The topology is a many-many-many....mapping,
along the lines of my description of technology in "Mapping Technology
Chaos:" That is, there is both
divergence and convergence of migration paths. In particular, ideas
sometimes converge form several disciplines to create a new discipline.

A classic example is the migration of the concept of the "quantum of energy"
from heat (Planck) to light (Einstein) to electrons (Bohr), creating the new
discipline of atomic physics. There is no interdisciplinary research here,
but there is a well defined discipline to discipline citation trail.


The  <> operationalization
of a journal set for the delineation of an interdisciplinary specialty:
the case of  <>
Communication Studies

A journal set in an interdisciplinary and developing area can be determined
by including the journals classified under the most relevant ISI Subject
Categories into a journal-journal citation matrix. Despite the fuzzy
character of borders, factor analysis of the citation patterns enables us to
delineate the specific set by discarding the noise. This technique is
illustrated using communication studies as a hybrid development between
political science and social psychology. The development is visualized using
animations which support the claim that a specific journal set in
communication studies is developing, notably in the “being cited” patterns.
The resulting set of approximately 25 journals in communication studies is
much smaller and more focused than the 45 journals classified by the ISI
Subject Categories as “Communication.”

Loet Leydesdorff
Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR), University of
Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX  Amsterdam, The Netherlands;
loet at;

Carole Probst
Faculty of Communication Sciences, Università della Svizzera italiana,
Switzerland; carole.probst at

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