Citation Elites in Polytheistic and Umbrella Disciplines: Patterns of Stratification and Concentration in Danish and British Science

Minerva:1-30 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

The notion of science as a stratified system is clearly manifested in the markedly uneven distribution of productivity, rewards, resources, and recognition. Although previous studies have shown that institutional environments for conducting research differ significantly between national science systems, disciplines, and subfields, it remains to be shown whether any systematic variations and patterns in inequalities exist among researchers in different national and domain specific settings. This study investigates the positioning of citation elites as opposed to ‘ordinary’ researchers by way of examining three dimensions of concentration (accumulation of publications and citations, specialisation, and institutional concentration) in biology, economics and physics in Denmark and the UK. Across all three dimensions, we put Richard Whitley’s bipartite theory to the test, suggesting a nexus between the intellectual structure of a discipline and the configuration of its elite. The study draws on a dataset of researchers who published most of their publications in either physics, biology, or economics over the 1980–2018 period and with at least one publication in 2017–2018 while affiliated to either a British or a Danish university. We find higher degrees of concentration in the UK compared to Denmark, and that physics and biology respectively display the greatest and lowest degree of concentration. Similar patterns in disciplinary differences are observed in both countries, suggesting that concentration patterns are largely rooted in disciplinary cultures and merely amplified by the national context.

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