The social and intellectual development of library and information science

by Åström, Fredrik

Abstract (Summary)
The background of the project is partly found in a long tradition within library and information science (LIS) of meta-analyses on the field, partly in a science studies discussion on research fields and their contextual relation to wider academia, fields of professionalpractices and professionalization processes. The general purpose of the project is to analyze the social and intellectual development and organization of LIS; and to investigate the impact of the close relation to the practice field, as well as the relation to the academic world in general. Based on the general purpose of the project and results and interpretations of the four articles attached to the thesis, three questions were stated for discussion in the thesis proper, concerning: the effects of a dual origin and LIS as a discipline, a field of research and a field of practice, the purpose of meta-studies and implications in terms of identity and perception of LIS; and competition and cooperation with other fields of research. Because of the heterogeneous nature of LIS, a variety of methods and materials was used in the different articles; and methodological issues on limits and bias in bibliographic databases – and the implications on the perception of research areas with varying publication and citation behaviour – were discussed. The analyses were performed against a theoretical framework, providing key organizational characteristics of scientific fields, relating to social, intellectual and contextual aspects, in combination with theories on scientific and disciplinary development, professionalization and interdisciplinarity; but also, for analytical contrast: alternate theories on the development of the sciences since 1945. LIS shows two distinct paths of development: research areas developing out of other fields of research; and a disciplinary development originating out of the field of practice and institutions for educating practitioners. Analyzing meta-studies of LIS, the picture of a field with a vague identity and a diverse self-understanding, even in terms of core characteristics, emerges. The relation to the wider academic community is characterized by diffuse boundaries towards, and competition from, other fields of research. In general, LIS is a fragmented field with a multitude of wildly varying research areas; and with large variations in terms of organizational setting; which together with a vague identity and diffuse boundaries, as well as the close connections to the field of practice, might contribute towards explaining problems LIS have been experiencing, establishing itself in academia. However, there are also signs towards an integration of a number of LIS research areas, as well as an increase in interdisciplinary cooperation, contradicting theories suggesting a further fragmentation; and supporting ideas on the sciences developing towards e.g. interdisciplinarity and applicability of results.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Umeå universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; Other social sciences; Library and information science; library and information science; sociology of science; scholarly communication,


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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