Disciplinarity and sport science in Europe: A statistical and sociological study of ECSS conference abstracts

Stéphane Champely, Patrick Fargier, Jean Camy
European Journal of Sport Science 2017, 17 (1): 5-18
Abstracts of European College of Sports Science conferences (1995-2014) are studied. The number of abstracts has been increasing regularly (+90 per year). This rise is in recent years largely due to extra-European countries. The magnitude and accumulation of the different topics of discussion are examined. An operational criterion determines four stages of evolution of a topic: social network, cluster, specialty, and discipline. The scientific production can, therefore, be classified as disciplinary or non-disciplinary. The disciplinary part is more important but has been less dynamic recently. The cognitive content of sport science is then explored through a multidimensional scaling of the topics based on the keywords used in the abstracts. Three areas are visible: social sciences and humanities, sports medicine and physiology, and biomechanics and neurophysiology. According to the field theory of Bourdieu ( 1975 ), three scientific habitus are distinguished. The logic of academic disciplinary excellence is the consequence of the autonomy of this scientific field, its closure, peer-review process, and barriers to entry. The distribution of scientific capital and professional capital is unequal across the three areas. Basically, conservation strategies of academic disciplinary excellence are predicted in biomechanics and neurophysiology, subversion strategies of interdisciplinarity based on professional concerns can appear in the sports medicine and physiology area, and critical strategies of interdisciplinarity based on social utility in social sciences and humanities. Moreover, additional tensions within these areas are depicted. Lastly methods based on co-citations of disciplines and boundary objects are proposed to find tangible patterns of multidisciplinarity confirming these strategies.

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