Gustaf Nelhans (PhD, MSc) is senior lecturer at the University of Borås and defended his thesis in Theory of Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden in 2013. His research focuses on scientometrics and especially the use of bibliometrics and citation measures both by researchers as well as professionals using a science and technology studies (STS) perspective. Current developments, especially within research policy has given this research not just present relevance, but also urgency.
Brief professional sketch
In my research, I am contributing to a quantitative branch in theory of science (broadly defined as Science, Technology Studies, STS) where the focus on scientific practice, directed towards the scientometric study of publications, research activities and networks of scientific culture. My thesis, Citeringens praktiker – Det vetenskapliga publicerandet som teori, metod och forskningspolitik (‘Practices of citations – the scientific publication as theory, method and research policy’) was successfully defended on September 27th, 2013. Faculty opponent was Professor Mats Benner, Research Policy Institute, Lund University and the committee consisted of Professor Ulla Eriksson Zetterquist, Institute Director Gothenburg Research Institute, Associate Professor Fredrik Åström, University Library at Lund University and Professor emeritus Aant Elzinga, University of Gothenburg.
In the analysis of internal scientific debates (drawing on controversy studies) and in studying the development of research fields and discipline-building, I argue that citation analyses of individual researchers publication patterns is a set of variables that the theorist of science can draw on to identify (important) aspects of research, which has largely been neglected within STS during the later years where qualitative studies has been preferred. But true to the tenets of STS research, using data retrieved from Thomson Reuters Web of Science, the focus is on individual articles in terms of references given and citations received in a context that is labelled the ‘citation network’, instead of focusing on large aggregated data sets where individual contributions are easily masked.
At the same time, researchers are becoming increasingly aware of the use of bibliometrics to evaluate research and to allocate funding. In the project I try to identify if and how this results in actors changing their practices of doing research and to what degree this has resulted in a self-reflexive performative “citation culture” (Wouters, 1999) that turns researchers to develop various publication and research practices to maximize the impact of and reward from their publications. In doing this I aim to take the practice turn within science studies a step away from the laboratory to also look at publishing as a distinct material practice with its specific cultural practices. The thesis aims to develop a way to discuss scientometric indicators in a context where researchers, articles, the citation index as used in the “performative citation culture” are constantly creating and recreating each other in what has come to be known as “the mangle of practice” (Pickering, 1995). In addition to Pickering’s work and scientometrics my methodological work on a modern reconceptualization of STS scientometrics is influenced by the perspectives of the performativity of scientific texts by Steve Woolgar and texts as political and enrolling intermediaries by Bruno Latour.
Presently I am employed as a lecturer in Library and Information science at the University of Borås where I am teaching in the area of Informetrics (bibliometrics, scientometrics and webometrics) and theory of science. I am also doing research in The co-production of social science and society: the case of Happiness studies, PI Margareta Hallberg, Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg, financed by the Swedish Research Counsil (Vetenskapsrådet), together with Christopher Kullenberg, mapping the research area and visualizing aspects of the developments within the field. Earlier, I was part of the project File sharing after IPRED, PI Jan Nolin, University of Borås, where I did media analysis, webometric analyses on Wikipedia data and content analyses on comment fields in blogs and Youtube entries. In this research, I used cluster analysis methods, Spatial and Social Network Analysis (SSNA) and visualization techniques for large sets of “Internet data”.
Recently I was invited speaker at an international workshop on 'Best Practices' in bibliometrics, organized by The Association of Swedish Higher Education, followed by a two day course on bibliometrics for practitioners at the universities and the corporate sector.
Some years ago I gave two talks on perspectives on the use of bibliometrics for research policy in Sweden. First a keynote presentation at a shared event with Blaise Cronin, Rudy professor in Information Science at Indiana University and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. The title of my contribution was: ‘Inscribed and circumscribed by citations – Indicators, impact and quality in the humanities and social sciences’. Bibliometrics at the Crossroads, Seminar on Scientific Indicators, University of Borås and Chalmers University Library, Gothenburg: May 24th, 2012.
A version of this talk was also given at the 4S/EASST conference October 17-20, 2012, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark at a session entitled Mapping the dynamics of the social sciences and humanities.
The thesis (in Swedish, with an English summary) is available at http://hdl.handle.net/2077/33516 and in printed form directly from the author.
University of Borås
Visiting Address: Allégatan 1, room C526
SE 501 90 Borås Sweden
Tel: 033-435 5985