The role of handbooks in knowledge creation and diffusion : a case of science and technology studies
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofJournal of informetrics ; vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 693-709.
Genre is considered to be an important element in scholarly communication and in the practice of scientific disciplines. However, scientometric studies have typically focused on a single genre, the journal article. The goal of this study is to understand the role that handbooks play in knowledge creation and diffusion and their relationship with the genre of journal articles, particularly in highly interdisciplinary and emergent social science and humanities disciplines. To shed light on these questions we focused on handbooks and journal articles published over the last four decades belonging to the research area of Science and Technology Studies (STS), broadly defined. To get a detailed picture we used the full-text of five handbooks (500,000 words) and a well-defined set of 11,700 STS articles. We confirmed the methodological split of STS into qualitative and quantitative (scientometric) approaches. Even when the two traditions explore similar topics (e.g., science and gender) they approach them from different starting points. The change in cognitive foci in both handbooks and articles partially reflects the changing trends in STS research, often driven by technology. Using text similarity measures we found that, in the case of STS, handbooks play no special role in either focusing the research efforts or marking their decline. In general, they do not represent the summaries of research directions that have emerged since the previous edition of the handbook.