I would like to know if there is any scientific field that focuses exclusively on scientific instrumentation research? I know that each field (and sub-field) has its own instrumentation and apparatus, but my question is about the existence of a community that explore the nature and the methodological sides of those instruments.
Yes, there exist such a field, but actually the development of scientific instrumentation is transversal to many fields. Note, however, that one typically specializes in scientific instrumentation of a certain kind. With just one life available, one cannot cover all types of instruments!
One specific field is that of metrology. Metrology is the science of measurement, and many metrologists are involved in the development of measuring systems and methods for accurate measurements. For instance, as my profile says, I'm a metrologist and I work in the field of primary electrical resistance and impedance measurements. I spend most of my time developing devices and measuring systems for that quantity, and for the realization of its unit, the ohm. Metrologists also collaborate with the industry, to improve the development of certain types of instruments. It's not uncommon that measuring systems that were once developed by research laboratories can be now bought as off-the-shelf instruments from various companies. In a few institutions around the world, and especially in Europe, one can find PhD programmes or schools dedicated to metrology.
However, not all scientific instruments are dedicated to accurate measurements, and many instruments are also developed by researchers working in specific disciplines. So, for instance, particle physicists may collaborate with engineers to develop particle and radiation detectors. As I said, the development of scientific instrumentation is really transversal to many fields.
It is common for those who work at the development of instrumentation to have a degree in engineering or physics, but these are not the only possibilities indeed. You definitely need a broad knowledge, though.
You can find papers on instrumentation on certain dedicated journals, but also in journals about specific disciplines. Some dedicated journals are the following (list by no means exhaustive):
- Metrologia: This is the main journal dedicated to the world of metrology. You can find papers dedicated to primary measuring systems.
- Review of Scientific Instruments: As the title says, this is a journal specifically dedicated to scientific instruments, of all kinds. Quite well known.
- Measurement Science and Technology: Another journal dedicated to the world of measuring instruments, with a broader scope with respect to Metrologia.
- IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement: Journal with a very broad scope, where you can find papers dedicated to instrumentation, sensors, algorithms etc.
There are a few communities that focus exclusively on instrumentation for social sciences (survey development, etc.) - from a quick Google Scholar search, the journal Measurement Instruments for the Social Sciences seems to be fairly on-target for what you're describing. However, given how much instrument development intersects with experimentation, you're likely to find that a fair portion of instrument development research isn't being published in specialty journals like the one I referenced, but rather in broader-scope journals where there's still interest in that type of research (due to its applicability) and a larger readership base (which, if you're the person publishing the article, will hopefully lead to more citations, etc.!)
Therefore, if you happen to know what specific type of instrumentation development you're interested in - e.g. testing methodologies for education research, evaluation metrics for AI/anthropomorphic robots, general principles for the design of experiments/statistics - I'd suggest taking a look at journals and books in those specific fields, since that's where members of the instrumentation development community will often aim to publish. A few examples of what these types of papers/books look like:
Black, Thomas R. Doing quantitative research in the social sciences: An integrated approach to research design, measurement and statistics. Sage, 1999. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d583/9592516f9c9d676b0315d63a47e200d43da2.pdf
Bartneck, Christoph, et al. "Measurement instruments for the anthropomorphism, animacy, likeability, perceived intelligence, and perceived safety of robots." International journal of social robotics 1.1 (2009): 71-81. https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s12369-008-0001-3.pdf
Bolton, Dawn Langkamp, and Michelle D. Lane. "Individual entrepreneurial orientation: Development of a measurement instrument." Education+ Training (2012). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Radha_Iyer4/post/Entrepreneurial_Opportunitity_exploitation_dimensions_scale_developed_and_validated_Is_there_anywhere_i_can_find_them/attachment/59d6400779197b807799c4e5/AS%3A429321358712838%401479369596643/download/individual+entrepreneurial+orientation.pdf
There are, of course, many more papers out there like these; I just picked a few that were reasonably well-cited and which weren't hidden behind a paywall. A great way to find some of the high-profile authors and journals in your community of interest would be to look through the literature make note of the journals/authors that are frequently cited in the articles you read; usually this will give you a pretty good feel for the culture of the academic community in that field as well, as more diffuse communities (i.e. ones where researchers in the field don't interact too much - possibly because of how niche their work is) often have fewer shared citations among their articles compared to tight-knit or well-established academic communities (where researchers either know each other well, or are otherwise typically familiar with a central 'canon' of work).
If, however, you're less interested in the practical/applied aspects of instrument development methodologies, and instead find the theoretical aspects more appealing - you might want to take a look at statistics research (since it plays such a large role in experimental design, and determining what makes a scientific instrument successful). There are quite a few papers on the design of social science instruments from a statistical perspective, so that may be of interest to you as well.