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Visibility and the Structural Bases of Awareness of Scientific Research

Stephen Cole and Jonathan R. Cole
American Sociological Review
Vol. 33, No. 3 (Jun., 1968), pp. 397-413
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2091914
Page Count: 17
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Visibility and the Structural Bases of Awareness of Scientific Research
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Abstract

This paper contains an analysis of several aspects of the communication process in science. Using data obtained from printed sources and questionnaires mailed to university physicists, the conditions making for high visibility of a scientist's work are studied. Four strong determinants of visibility were found: the quality of work, as measured by citations; the honorific awards received for work in physics; the prestige of the physics department to which the scientist belongs; and specialty. Quantity of output, age, and name-ordering patterns on collaborative papers have no independent effect on visibility. Just as some physicists may be easily seen (i.e., have high visibility), others are in positions where they may easily see. This latter characteristic is called "awareness." The data indicate that awareness is high in all sectors of the population studied. Variables such as age, rank of department, and quality of work made for only minor differences in awareness. We conclude that the communication system in physics operates efficiently.

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