Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bibliometrics and Urban Research


Global urban development was one of the significant innovations of the 20th century, changing both human and natural environments in the process.  Approximately 40 scholarly journals are dedicated to urban studies, but with over 3 billion people now living in cities worldwide, it is inevitable that topics with an urban dimension are published across the intellectual spectrum, in journals ranging from anthropology to zoology. 
As part of the development of a new meta-journal titled Current Research on Cities (CRoC)[1], we investigated the diversity of publication in urban affairs using keyword analysis and found three distinct spheres of ‘urban knowledge’ that contain some overlap but also significant differences.  

What we did

We explored the connectivity between the different branches of urban research in the following manner. First, we identified three distinct clusters of published material:
  1. research published in the 38 journals of the Thomson-Reuters urban studies cluster;  
  2. research with urban content in the social sciences and humanities;
  3. research with urban content published in the applied sciences.

We focused on the SciVerse-Scopus database of journal articles published in 2010, which contains 991,000 entries. We then identified the research papers containing the keyword ‘urban’ plus one of the following keywords—planning, renewal, development, politics, population, transport, housing—that have shown up in a pilot project. We limited the search to Social Science subject areas and to relevant subject areas in the applied Sciences (ignoring medicine, engineering and so forth). This yielded the following numbers of articles and reviews:

Number of Reviews and Articles

Urban Studies cluster

Social Sciences


Source: Scopus, February 2012

Table 1: Data on urban publications in the three different clusters

Water 254
Urban Planning 156
Housing 286
Environment 144
US 129
US 244
Urban Area 143
Urban Area 127
Urban Planning 240
Air 93
Urban  Population 126
Urban Development 221
Land Use 73
Human 109
Policy 215
Atmosphere 71
Urban  Development 106
Urban Area 176
Human 69
History 91
Neighborhood 148
US 68
Female 78
Urban Population 119
China 63
Housing 69
Urban Economy 90
Urban Planning 61
China 64
Metropolitan Area 88
Pollution 60
Urban Policy 64
Governance 74
Urbanization 54
Male 61
UK 74
Urban Population 51
Neighborhood 61
China 68
Urban Development 47
Urbanization 59
Social Change 62
Sustainability 40
Land Use 58
Urban Renewal 60
Climate 38
Rural 58
Urban Society 58
GIS 34
Policy 56
Urban Politics 54
Transport 34
Planning 54
Education  48
Female 32
Adult 51
Urbanization 48
Agriculture 29
Metropolitan Area 45
Strategic Approach 48

Table 2: appearances of keywords in the three clusters: those in RED are unique, those in BLUE are common to all three columns, and those shaded are discussed in the text below. Index keywords been attributed by indexers such as Medline and Embase. Redundancies were eliminated and minor categories collapsed: e.g. water use and water planning are aggregated to ‘water’.  The three data sets were rearranged according to the keyword frequency, scaled against the grand totals for each column, to make them comparable. 

How we interpret these results

From such a preliminary analysis, we can still make a number of inferences. First, we can see that there is relatively little overlap between the three columns, with 22 of the 60 entries being unique (half of the Science entries, 9 in the Urban cluster). The variation is systematic: in the Sciences, research focuses on water, air and climate, whereas in the other columns it emphasizes housing, governance and planning. Surprisingly, the points of potential convergence—such as ‘sustainability’—appear only in the Sciences column.    
            We begin to understand one part of the lack of integration between the three areas of specialty when we examine the origins of the research. Half of the urban studies research emanates from the Anglophone countries; in contrast, Chinese authors contribute most to the Sciences cluster.  

Figure 1: the percentage of papers within a category that have at least one author with an affiliation in the countries displayed: e.g. 33% of all Urban Studies papers have an author with an American affiliation. 

            A second issue of importance is that research undertaken both in the Social Sciences and Urban clusters is attentive to scale; we have marked the appearance of both ‘neighborhood’ and ‘metropolitan’ in these columns. In contrast, Science research considers broader categories, such as urban versus rural. This reflects the tendency for applied science to apply itself to broad processes such as climate change, and the much narrower concerns of social scientists with phenomena such as gated communities.

Why these results are of relevance

The data suggest that there may be only limited integration of research efforts undertaken by those who work explicitly in urban studies, social scientists who work in cities, and scientists who are concerned with the environmental impacts of urban development. Some part of this may be driven by geography and will disappear as more Chinese, Korean and Japanese scholars publish in international journals [2].  It remains the case however that there is an astonishingly small commitment to pressing environmental issues such as climate change, sustainability and adaptation outside the science cluster.
It is to address this problem that CRoC has been developed.  As a meta-journal, the aim is to publish solicited material that can assist in bridging these silos, while building on the points of integration that do exist within the different communities of urban scholarship.   

Kirby, A. (2012) “Current Research on Cities and its contribution to urban studies” Cities Volume 29, Supplement 1 S3–S8

(2) Haijun Wanga et al. (2012) “Global urbanization research from 1991 to 2009: A systematic research review’ Landscape and Urban Planning 104, 299– 309.

1 comment:

  1. This urban research is related with the urban content in the social sciences and humanities and reforming the historical development. Thanks for sharing.
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