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What can bibliometrics tell us about changes in the mode of knowledge production?


  • Ben R. Martin


One of the most influential contributions to the fields of science policy research and science and technology studies during the last 20 years was The New Production of Knowledge by Gibbons et al. (Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P. and Trow, M. (1994) The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies, Sage, London). The authors argued that over recent decades a different form of knowledge production has emerged, one which they termed ‘Mode 2’. In this, knowledge is produced in the context of application, generally on the basis of transdisciplinary research efforts, by a heterogeneous range of institutional actors, who are subject to wider social accountability and more diverse forms of quality control than in the traditional ‘Mode 1’ knowledge production. Although there have been a number of attempts to examine the claims of The New Production of Knowledge empirically, the evidence is, at best, rather ambiguous. The study reported here analyses highly cited publications in the field of bibliometric research to establish whether the themes of those publications and, more specifically, the changes in these themes over the last 20 years, provide any evidence of a growing incidence of Mode 2 knowledge production. The paper concludes that there is some evidence that bibliometrics, as a field of research, has exhibited a shift towards Mode 2 knowledge production over the last two decades. In addition, it would seem to have played a part in a similar shift across science more generally, offering policy-relevant tools and analyses, helping scientific research to respond to increased demands for accountability, and contributing to changes in the approach to the quality assessment of research. At the same time, and perhaps inadvertently, it may have contributed to bringing about changes in publication and citation practices as more and more authors seek to maximise their ‘score’ on one or more bibliometric indicators .

Suggested Citation

  • Ben R. Martin, 2011. "What can bibliometrics tell us about changes in the mode of knowledge production?," Prometheus, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(4), pages 455-479, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:promet:v:29:y:2011:i:4:p:455-479
    DOI: 10.1080/08109028.2011.643540

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    Cited by:

    1. Bidault, Francis & Hildebrand, Thomas, 2014. "The distribution of partnership returns: Evidence from co-authorships in economics journals," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(6), pages 1002-1013.
    2. Francis Bidault & Thomas Hildebrand, 2012. "The distribution of partnerships benefits: Evidence from co-authorships in economics journals," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-12-08, ESMT European School of Management and Technology.
    3. Fagerberg, Jan & Landström, Hans & Martin, Ben R., 2012. "Exploring the emerging knowledge base of ‘the knowledge society’," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(7), pages 1121-1131.
    4. Siedlok, Frank & Hibbert, Paul & Sillince, John, 2015. "From practice to collaborative community in interdisciplinary research contexts," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 96-107.

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