Social Networks in Political Science

Citation Data on Political Science

The existence of subfields, theoretical schools and even citation circles in political science is usually taken for granted, but empirical studies of these phenomena are scarce. To our best knowledge none of the existing studies adopts a network perspective of publications in political science.

Various authors use citation data to rank departments, journals, or countries. But all these analyses restrict themselves to summary measures, i.e. they essentially count the number of publications or citations per department, scientist, journal or country. Thus they cannot account for the network structure of citations. Our project, by contrast, aims at taking the inherently relational structure of citations and collaborations seriously. Put differently, we want to uncover knowledge networks that only become apparent once we look at patterns of scientific exchange and collaboration.

Our Project: Knowledge Networks in European Political Science

By applying standard methods to a large network of publications, we aim at identifying

  • 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.
Since there is very little research in and on political science on which we could build, this is essentially an exploratory analysis. However, to avoid the pitfalls of over-generalisation, we take a comparative approach and look at two large European countries: Germany and the United Kingdom. (Very) preliminary findings on co-publication networks in German political science indicate (perhaps unsurprisingly) that co-operation is much less intensive than in Britain

At the present stage, we restrict our analysis to original research articles published in three major journals (British Journal of Political Science, Political Studies, Politische Vierteljahresschrift) which are covered by the Social Science Citation Index. However, although journals provide the central hub for scientific communication and the proliferation of state-of-the-art research, chapters in collections still play a significant role in political science. Lipset's and Rokkan's seminal essay on cleavage structures is just one case in point. Even more important are monographs, which are (still) considered as the "gold standard" for publication by many political scientists. Future funding permitting, we will therefore further improve on existing work by identifying important contributions that were not published in journals but are often cited by journal articles.