Function, reception, and performativity of review literature in science (FuReWiRev)

Start of the project: 01-Aug-2018 - End of the project: 31-Jul-2021

Scientific knowledge is a central resource of contemporary societies, which is reflected in a rising demand for ‘more’ and ‘better’ knowledge. But how is such knowledge produced in the first place? From a sociological perspective, an obvious site for studying the production of scientific knowledge is the publication system with all its particularities, such as the practice of peer reviewing. Consequently, much attention has been given to the roles and effects of the scientific research article and the networks emerging from citations between research articles.

Much less attention has been given to the roles and effects of another publication format: the review article. At first sight, a review article merely summarizes the facts others have already established and thus seems to play only a secondary role in the production of knowledge. On a closer look, however, it becomes apparent that the review article is a forceful device. In selecting articles for review and commenting on their research quality and findings, the review shapes our understanding and judgement of ‘the factual’.

Our project focuses on this often-neglected publication format and studies the roles, receptions, and performativity of scientific review literature. We include the consideration of the specific conditions under which scientific knowledge is produced today, i.e. an increasingly economic orientation and the introduction of metrics assessing research performance and quality of research output. This changing research climate, we assume, will have an effect on the way reviews are used and received. Especially in areas where research output is high, reviews will play a key role in providing guidance and deciding what counts as legitimate knowledge. We investigate how reviews are written and read in different fields and disciplines and which roles they play there.

To answer our research questions, we employ and mix different methods: hermeneutic content analyses, expert interviews, citation network analyses, and text mining. The project has a time frame of three years and is financed by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

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Studying review articles in scientometrics and beyond: a research agenda.

Blümel, C., & Schniedermann, A. (2020).
Studying review articles in scientometrics and beyond: a research agenda. Scientometrics, 1-18.

Lead Researcher

Clemens Blümel
Clemens Blümel Lead Researcher +49 30 2064177-31
Arno Simons
Dr. Arno Simons Lead Researcher +49 30 2064177-50


Alexander Schniedermann

Funded by

Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung