62. Challenges and benefits of field-comparative science studies
Jochen Glaser, TU Berlin; Markus Hoffmann, TU Berlin; Theresa Velden, DZHW;
Comparative research deepens our understanding of the specifics of each case, facilitates generalisation by helping us understand the scope of our findings, and supports theory building through causal explanations because such explanations rest on the systematic exploration of variance in conditions, causal processes, and outcomes.
This is why it is not surprising that comparing disciplines or fields has a long tradition. However, in spite of seminal contributions, e.g. by Richard Whitley and Karin Knorr-Cetina, the comparison of fields of research still confronts us with serious challenges. In order to compare fields, we need to go beyond just naming them and relying on 'what everybody knows' about them. We must find comparative dimensions that capture relevant differences and support data collection about them. Studying more than one field is also difficult in the small projects that are typical for STS.
The single-case studies that dominate our field often employ implicit comparisons when they link the observed phenomena to peculiarities of the field in which they occur. These implicit comparisons are equally challenging, not least due to an imbalance between purposefully collected empirical evidence on one field and information on other fields taken from the literature.
In this open panel, we would like to discuss outcomes of and methodological challenges for implicitly or explicitly field-comparative science studies. We invite empirical, theoretical and methodological contributions on results of implicit or explicit comparisons, and on the challenges of doing comparative work.