Summary

Rationale

Communication research in Spain has experienced during the past quarter of century an unquestionable process of growth, as some developments have shown since the beginning of the 1990s. The strengthening of the institutional structure for communication research; the considerable growth of the scholarly community and its disciplinary diversification; the new requirements for the access to, and the development of, a research and professional career; the relative acknowledgement of the specificity of Communication Studies within the framework of Spanish science policy; the birth of scholarly associations and the strengthening of academic journals; or the regular presence of Spanish research on international benchmark publications are, among others, factors that allow for some optimism about the increasing maturity of this scientific field in the past 25 years.

Nevertheless, this state of affairs has not been corresponded by an analogous effort to apply a reflexive look over the research we perform and the conditions under which the scientific community devoted to the study of Communication works. The application of such look is not just another indicator of maturity, but also a convenient approach to evaluate the practice of research in this field and the factors that explain the trends, options and results we are obtaining.

In the past few years there has been, indeed, a renewed interest in this object, but the research published so far suffers, in general, from three shortcomings that this project seeks to avoid: the limited scope of the proposed descriptions; the scarcity of studies aimed at a critical evaluation of the research we are actually performing; and the lack of attention to factors such as the structure and features of the scientific community and the institutional context in which research is produced, which contributes to a weakening of their explanatory power (an answer to the reasons for the situations described and/or evaluated).

Project aims

According to the principles outlined above, this project seeks to analyze Spanish research on Communication in the past quarter of century (1990-2015) aiming at three main specific objectives: the evolution of the scientific community of researchers on Communication during this period (structure, education, epistemological ascriptions, etc.); the development of the institutional context of research (university centers, science policy, mechanisms of access and reward, institutions and criteria for the evaluation of research, associations and academic publications, constitution of established research groups and research networks, etc.); and the analysis of the scientific production of this past 25 years, in order to give an account of, mainly, the research interests (objects of study) in relation with communication phenomena, and the theoretical and methodological orientations of the research performed during those years. This analysis will allow for the evaluation of the degree of integration of Spanish research within the international debates and epistemological trends, and its contribution to the advancement of knowledge in this disciplinary field.

Theoretical framework

Theoretically, this project draws from Kuhn’s (1962) socio-historic epistemology and Merton’s (1973) sociology of science, which both center their reflections on scientific disciplines (and therefore on particular disciplinary fields) and on the analysis of the features and the social conditions under which scientific communities work. Regarding its theoretical groundings, this project seeks to position itself in line with Bourdieu’s (1987) field theory and, specifically, in line with his analysis of the scientific field (1975, 1984, 1987, 2001). Communication research is therefore conceived in this project as a particular field of symbolic production (in this case, a disciplinary area within the general scientific field) whose deep understanding demands looking at the conditions that influence its own structure: the general socio-historical context; the specific epistemological or scientific context in which the researcher develops her/his work ; and, in the end, the particular institutional context in which researchers grow professionally. Due to its relevance in the conditioning of scientific practice, this latter aspect will be carefully assessed in the project.

References

BOURDIEU, P. (1975): La spécificité du champ scientifique et les conditions sociales du progrès de la raison, Sociologie et sociétés, 7 (1): 91-118.

─ (1984): Homo academicus. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990.

─ (1987): In other words: Essays toward a reflective sociology. Redwood (Cal.): Stanford University Press, 1990.

─ (2001): Science of science and reflexivity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004.

KUHN, T. S. (1962): The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

MERTON. R. K. (1973). The sociology of science: Theoretical and empirical investigations. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Significance

In general terms, the analysis of a disciplinary field in a particular socio-cultural environment (communication research in Spain, in this case) constitutes a contribution to the historical knowledge of a scientific activity in such context. More specifically, the INCOMES-25 project seeks to offer a complete survey of the Spanish communication research system by paying attention to the scientific production as well as to the scholarly community and the context where it operates. The description of these three interrelated features will allow us to identify the shortcomings and limitations of Spanish communication research, and the factors at the origin of them (researchers’ training curriculum, publication outlets, professional associations, policies for the stimulus of research, etc).

In particular, this project could be understood as part of a recent push for what it is beginning to be internationally institutionalized under the label of ‘history of communication and media research’. To prevent Spanish communication research from being marginalized from this international development, INCOMES-25 counts among its Endorsing Institutions (EIPs) the Project on the History of Communication Research (PHCR), whose repository of resources will host the outputs coming out of our own research project. INCOMES-25 will participate, as well, on the research lines currently under consideration within the PHCR, such as the oral history of communication studies. Other Endorsing Institutions for our project are the History Section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR); and the Institut für Kommunikationswissenschaft und Medienforschung of the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München (Munich, Germany), a renowned research center for its renewal of historical studies about Communication Research in Europe.