Scientific Worlds


Host group


   Research Group 3, " Scientific Worlds" (coordinators Corinne Bonnet, Denis Eckert, and Béatrice Milard) examines the abundant traces left by the production and circulation of knowledge, from the complementary perspectives of networks and territories. This group covers a very broad geographical and disciplinary space as well as changes over time from Antiquity to contemporary practices. For example, this group supported the completion of an ongoing study on the geography of research, based on a complete geocoding of articles identified by the Web of Science. This group also supported new research on large-scale scientific facilities, and on networks of exchanges among scholars in Antiquity. Other projects, such as one on the networks of heterodox economists, are being developed.

Within the SMS framework, research on the geography of scholarly publications focused on the networks of co-authors from research teams in different cities. Analysis of these networks showed a densification of the global scholarly network (in the 500 cities that account for 85% of publications) and a reduction in hierarchies of centrality. In particular, one of the findings contradicts prevailing wisdom: national contexts are not weakening, since collaboration between researchers in different cities in the same country are growing as fast as those of researchers from different countries; both of these increases are occurring at the expense of publications made by one research centre. To put it another way, globalization is not doing away with national contexts (which, in fact, are getting stronger in countries such as China) —globalization is only one aspect of the growth of collaborative research.

The study on scholarly networks in Antiquity focuses on the first two centuries of the ‘Greco-Roman’ Empire as a crucial moment in the convergence of Greek culture and Roman power. The project began with a historical, anthropological, and sociological analysis of Plutarch’s banquets (bringing together just under 100 scholars) as a mediating space. This study, which resulted in a grant from the ANR [the French National Research Agency], showed that it was possible to conduct network analyses on this type of source text. The project plans to develop a digital edition of Plutarch’s "Table Talk."

Research on large-scale scientific facilities has taken the form of field surveys in several cases and a seminar for discussing the results and organising a new research approach that takes into account astronomical observatories of the seventeenth century as well as current particle accelerators. More generally, the pooling of interdisciplinary skills that has resulted from shared reflection on the structuring of scientific worlds and the tools needed to understand them over time, has resulted in an innovative article, “Les réseaux savants et leur visualisation de l’Antiquité à nos jours [Networks of scholars and the visualization of them from Antiquity to the present,” in press in the journal Histoire et informatique [History and computing], co-authored by geographers and historians. The group dynamic continues with biannual meetings to foster new research projects. For example, a project on the intertwining of academic management and the business world has just begun, and another study on heterodox economists’ networks is being developed. Another project on Academic Worlds by a member of this group has just been awarded an ANR [French National Research Agency] Young Researchers grant (the VISA project Vies Savantes [Learned Lives] by Nicolas Adell-Gombert).