Interdisciplinarity

Looking Back at 2022 on Social Science Space

December 20, 2022 2266
Photo of lighted 2022 at public attraction in Moscow
(Photo: Brateevsky, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

As is the wont of many media websites, with the end of the year here at Social Science Space, we like to look back at the year-that-was as the-year-that-is-to-be looms. We look at what was popular, both to influence what we consider publishing next year but also to discern trends in what interests the social and behavioral science community. We also look at pieces we’ve published that we considered important to see if interest in the pieces equaled what we assumed would be their gravitas.

Here we’ll share some of what we’ve discovered, focusing mostly on pieces that we published in 2022. That said, one thing we discovered immediately is that some of the things we’ve published in years past remain immensely popular, especially if those pieces are how-to’s or introspection on being a social scientist (or social science adjacent).

Case in point, “What I Have Learned from Social Science,” an essay by Ziyad Marar, SAGE Publishing’s president of global publishing, first published on January 1 — of last year. This particular essay seems to have captured some of the zeitgeist of COVID-era social science. While it was the Bright Young Thing on the block and was also the most popular content of last year, it’s continued to dominate without promotion into this year.

So, this year we presented another thought piece from Ziyad, “On Measuring Social Science Impact,” an excerpt of an article he wrote for the journal Organizational Studies. This time, we invited responses to the ideas presented, and created a thread of thoughtful reflection from the likes of psychologist and autism researcher Sue Fletcher-Watson, management professor Anne-Wil Harzing, political scientist Laura Rovelli, data scientist Mike Taylor, the staff of the Humane Metrics Initiative, and Ron Kassimir senior adviser to the Columbia World Projects. We’re currently packaging all those essays into a larger and downloadable format that we’ll present here at Social Science Space early next year.

Looking at how-to content, a legacy piece that really captured the zeitgeist of that last three years also stays strong in this year’s rankings: “16 Answers to Your Questions about Teaching Online.” The article is structured as a series of questions, with each one answered by a link back to a journal article, video, or reference book entry. While the absolute need to hold classes virtually ebbs and flows, the tips here remain timely making it a popular destination for Google searches on the subject.

Several headline subjects with a distinctly 2022 cast also make our list. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a variety of social and behavioral science articles, including the effect the war had on scholars and scholarship in Ukraine itself. To wrap our arms around a huge and evolving story, Social Science Space created a web page, “Social and Behavioral Science and the Russia-Ukraine War: A Collection,” which included a link to a SAGE Publishing microsite that curated articles from before the war that could shine light on the unfolding tragedy.

A lighter subject brought a lighter touch when Katie Metzler, a SAGE vice president of innovation, co-authored an article with one of the biggest celebrities of 2022, ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that’s the toast of Twitter. Katie and Chattie asked “How ChatGPT Could Transform Higher Education,” and their collaboration produced ways ChatGPT could lessen the burden of hard-pressed academics, while acknowledging it might add to the burden of time-challenged instructors aiming for original thinking from their students! (And of course, ChatGPT wasn’t the only online voice heard above the social media din in 2022 – the changes in Twitter spurred by Elon Musk’s purchase of the social network led to a raft of soul-searching by academics concerned about the site’s integrity, including a webinar on our sister site MethodSpace.)

Speaking of speaking, our podcast series, Social Science Bites, is always a league leader in these year-end retrospectives, and 2022 is no different. And much like other years, our 2013 interview with the late Doreen Massey on space again proved our most popular episode. Nearly every Bites podcast has a good afterlife. Among podcasts that went up this year – and only looking at people who listened to the podcast on Social Science Space, not on many streaming services – our most-heard episode was “Sheila Jasanoff on Science and Technology Studies,” in which the Holberg Prize winner told interviewer David Edmonds “a qualification sets boundaries on what you know, but it also sets boundaries on what you don’t know. Expertise is this double-edged thing.”

Returning for a moment to the late Doreen Massey, this month we launched a series of blog posts on psychogeography from the University of Swansea’s Aled Singleton, which namecheck Massey in one instance and certainly conjure memories of her work on the whole. Two of the posts have gone live this year and the next two will greet us after the calendar page has turned.

Doreen died in 2016, and her obituary on Social Science Space is frequently read to this day, according to Google Analytics. Our obituaries of prominent social and behavioral scientists are always well read. This year, for example, one of our most read pieces was “Barney Glaser, 1930-2022: The Guardian of Grounded Theory,” a loving remembrance of a steadfast but prickly defender of his turf (he described one SAGE reference work as “90% jargonizing distortion”).

On the subject of being prickly, our bloggers tend not to shy away from taking stands, especially against groupthink. Here we’ll offer the top-trafficked pieces from two of the bloggers – Robert Dingwall, who continues to ask uncomfortable questions about the prevailing views of combatting COVID with his “King Canute and the Cult of Zero Infection,” and Daniel Nehring, who explains “Why the Latest Strike Wave at UK Universities is Likely to Achieve Little.”

Social Science Space editor Michael Todd is a long-time newspaper editor and reporter whose beats included the U.S. military, primary and secondary education, government, and business. He entered the magazine world in 2006 as the managing editor of Hispanic Business. He joined the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy and its magazine Miller-McCune (renamed Pacific Standard in 2012), where he served as web editor and later as senior staff writer focusing on covering the environmental and social sciences. During his time with the Miller-McCune Center, he regularly participated in media training courses for scientists in collaboration with the Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea (COMPASS), Stanford’s Aldo Leopold Leadership Institute, and individual research institutions.

View all posts by Michael Todd

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