19th International CODATA Conference
Category: Open Communication

Digital Disciplinary Differences – Field Differences in Computer Mediated Science

Gaston Heimeriks (gaston.heimeriks@niwi.knaw.nl) and Peter Van den Besselaar
NIWI-KNAW, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Computer mediated communications play an increasingly important role in research. Not only are many aspects of scientific research now represented on the Internet, the introduction of new means of communication has also influenced processes of knowledge production. This creates a new challenge to the study of science by traditional methods. The Web and the Internet are a source of data on a very large scale. Ideally, the computer-mediated communications of universities could provide information about the context of knowledge production that cannot be easily obtained from other sources. As a consequence, the use of Web data for science and policy-oriented measurements will be quite seductive. Whether or not this is meaningful, however, and how these types of measurements might influence policies and quality control mechanisms is still an open question. One of the problems is related to the disciplinary differences in computer-mediated communications. We argue that disciplinary differences are increasingly important on the web. The wide variety of data analysis tools, means of data storage, processing capacity, software tools, information delivery technologies, and electronic networks that constitute the infrastructure which provides scientists with new means of communication, create a communicative plurality and communicative heterogeneity that increasingly reflects discipline specific patterns and needs.

Traditionally, scientific communities could be described as a network of papers published in scientific journals addressing an academic audience. The informational turn in research not only introduced new means of communication (WWW, email, etc), but also changed the context of knowledge production. The informational turn in science is associated with hybrid roles of academic, commercial and governmental institutes, the transformation of economic mechanisms by technology and innovation, and a wider variety of types of research output (e.g., tools, patents, norms and values). In addition to the relevance of the quality of ‘scientific knowledge’, also the economic potential and social implications of knowledge production play an important role in defining the communication system of Mode 2 sciences. 

We present some of the results of a three-year research project about the interaction of ICT and science and technology. We empirically explore the claims and hypotheses on the use of ICT in a variety of research areas using web-data about all EU universities. The web-characteristics of university departments in a number of disciplines were selected to represent various Mode 1 and Mode 2 fields as well as covering natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. The results indicate that the websites of the departments show pronounced disciplinary differences.