Development of research networks : the case of social capital
Forsman, Maria (2005-12-08)
Åbo Akademis förlag - Åbo Akademi University Press
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The aim of this study is to explore how a new concept appears inscientific discussion and research, how it diffuses to other fields and out of the scientific communities, and how the networks are formed around the concept. Text and terminology take the interest of a reader in the digital environment. Texts create networks where the terminology used is dependent on the ideas, viewsand paradigms of the field. This study is based mainly on bibliographic data. Materials for bibliometric studies have been collected from different databases. The databases are also evaluated and their quality and coverage are discussed. The thesauri of those databases that have been selected for a more in depth study have also been evaluated. The material selected has been used to study how long and in which ways an innovative publication, which can be seen as a milestone in a specific field, influences the research. The concept that has been chosen as a topic for this research is Social Capital, because it has been a popular concept in different scientific fields as well as in everyday speech and the media. It seemed to be a `fashion concept´ that appeared in different situations at the Millennium. The growth and diffusion of social capital publications has been studied. The terms connected with social capital in different fields and different stages of the development have also been analyzed. The methods that have been used in this study are growth and diffusion analysis, content analysis, citation analysis, coword analysis and cocitation analysis. One method that can be used tounderstand and to interpret results of these bibliometric studies is to interview some key persons, who are known to have a gatekeeper position in the diffusion of the concept. Thematic interviews with some Finnish researchers and specialists that have influenced the diffusion of social capital into Finnish scientificand social discussions provide background information. iv The Milestone Publications on social capital have been chosen and studied. They give answers to the question "What is Social Capital?" By comparing citations to Milestone Publications with the growth of all social capital publications in a database, we can drawconclusions about the point at which social capital became generally approved `tacit knowledge´. The contribution of the present study lies foremost in understanding the development of network structures around a new concept that has diffused in scientific communities and also outside them. The network means both networks of researchers, networks of publications and networks of concepts that describe the research field. The emphasis has been on the digital environment and onthe socalled information society that we are now living in, but in this transitional stage, the printed publications are still important and widely used in social sciences and humanities. The network formation is affected by social relations and informal contacts that push new ideas. This study also gives new information about using different research methods, like bibliometric methods supported by interviews and content analyses. It is evident that interpretation of bibliometric maps presupposes qualitative information and understanding of the phenomena under study.