Recently, the good folks over at the Exzellenzcluster (that’s German new-speak, folks!) Trier invited me over for a talk on our “networks in political science” project (which is not dead, just moving very slowly). Since this is multimedia month, they captured my voice and re-synched it with the presentation. Spooky stuff: all silly jokes, every “errrr” and all my nasty comments on various colleagues near and far are now online forever. Makes you wonder about scientific, technical and social progress. But if you could not be at Trier on this evening, or just cannot get enough of my lovely voice, just click below.
Last Saturday, we presented our ongoing work on collaboration and citation networks in Political Science at the
4th UK Network conference held at the University of Greenwich. For this conference, we created a presentation on Knowledge Networks in European Political Science that summarises most of our findings on political science in Britain and Germany and provides some additional international context. The picture on the right shows a subnetwork of about 320 scientists who mutually cite each others’ work. Watch out for the dense IR/methods cluster and the lack of (mutual) connections between the dispersed political sociology and formal methods camps.
Our project on social (citation and collaboration) networks in British and German political science involves networks with hundreds and thousands of nodes (scientists and articles). At the moment, our data come from the Social Science Citation Index (part of the ISI web of knowledge), and we use a bundle of rather eclectic (erratic?) scripts written in Perl to convert the ISI records into something that programs like Pajek or Stata can read. Some canned solutions (Wos2pajek, network workbench, bibexcel) are available for free, but I was not aware of them when I started this project, did not manage to install them properly, or was not happy with the results. Perl is the Swiss Army Chainsaw (TM) for data pre-processing, incredibly powerful (my scripts are typically less than 50 lines, and I am not an efficient programmer), and every time I want to do something in a slightly different way (i.e. I spot a bug), all I have to do is to change a few lines in the scripts.
After trying a lot of other programs available on the internet, we have chosen Pajek for doing the analyses and producing those intriguing graphs of cliques and inner circles in Political Science. Pajek is closed source but free for non-commercial use and runs on Windows or (via wine) Linux. It is very fast, can (unlike many other programs) easily handle very large networks, produces decent graphs and does many standard analyses. Its user interface may be slightly less than straightforward but I got used to it rather quickly, and it even has basic scripting capacities.
The only thing that is missing is a proper manual, but even this is not really a problem since Pajek’s creators have written a very accessible introduction to social network analysis that doubles up as documentation for the program (order from amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.de. However, Pajek has been under constant development since the 1990s (!) and has acquired a lot of new features since the book was published. Some of them are documented in an appendix, others are simply listed in the very short document that is the official manual for Pajek. You will want to go through the many presentations which are available via the Pajek wiki.
Of course, there is much more software available, often at no cost. If you do program Java or Python (I don’t), there are several libraries available that look very promising. Amongst the stand-alone programs, visone stands out because it can easily produce very attractive-looking graphs of small networks. Even more software has been developed in the context of other sciences that have an interest in networks (chemistry, biology, engineering etc.)
Here is a rather messy collection of links to sna software. Generally, you will want something that is more systematic and informative. Ines Mergel has recently launched a bid for creating a comprehensive software list on wikipedia. The resulting page on social network analysis software is obviously work in progress but provides very valuable guidance.
More preliminary findings on Social Networks in Political Science: from our analysis of collaboration patterns in the British Journal of Political Science (BJPS) and Political Studies (PS), we conclude that co-publication is much more widespread and intense than in Germany (not a huge surprise). Yet, at least on the basis of these two journals, collaboration networks in British political science look rather fragile when compared to the sciences. Obviously, further research is needed.
Like most social scientists I am a little bit obsessed with social networks. I’m also interested in the sociology of knowledge, which is a little more original. So some time ago, a colleague and I embarked on a project called “Networks in Political Science”, which rather unsurprisingly tries to apply network analysis to publications in Political Science. Our basic idea is that everyone seems to take subfields, theoretical schools and even citation circles for granted, but unlike in some other disciplines, little empirical work has been done so far. More specifically, we want to identify
- highly cited articles that form the core of subfields
- individual influential scholars
- sub-networks of scholars that cite each other and/or collaborate frequently, thereby forming an “invisible college” and
- individuals that are able to bridge sub-discplinary divides by publishing in a whole host of subfields.
Ideally, we would build a huge database of articles, chapters, and monographs. However, this requires lots of research assistants, and so for the time being, we use the Social Science Citation Index, which covers at least the core journals. We are soon due to deliver a paper at a conference, so I started writing it up. I’ve already put some preliminary findings on co-publication in Politische Vierteljahresschrift (PVS), arguably the most important German political science journal, on the web. The summary is very short and perhaps not very surprising: it doesn’t happen on a large scale.