Research is an activity, a process to obtain knowledge, which has been greatly empowered by the scientific method.

We can collect lots of information about research, consider impact factors, etc.

There is data and information there, that data could possibly become knowledge through some analysis, hypothesis testing, and in general terms research. So what I'm talking about here is research about research, meta-research.

First of all, I'm interested to know whether this has been done in the past.

Second, if this has been done (I guess so), I would like to know by what name, so that I can search for it. It's easier to find information about fluid dynamics when you know it stands by the name of fluid dynamics.

BTW: I'm not interested in philosophy or epistemology, but science and hard verifiable facts.

There may be some lack of that, whatever that is. Related article: Scientific method: Statistical errors

  • 1
    If you search Google Scholar for "learning" or "research methods" or "cognition" there are some results...
    – mankoff
    Feb 17, 2014 at 19:05
  • 2
    Are you talking about meta analysis (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-analysis)? I'm not sure whether you mean research about research in order to understand the research process itself better, or with some other goal (meta analysis is the latter). Feb 17, 2014 at 19:06
  • @AnonymousMathematician that's good, but that is done in statistics wrt to statistics, it's meta-statistics, but there is science and research beyond statistics ;)
    – Trylks
    Feb 17, 2014 at 19:09
  • 1
  • 1
    @episanty Indeed, thank you very much, the article itself is not very scientific, but I'll keep an eye on what people at METRICS are doing. Maybe I would even like working there, but that's something I prefer not to think about because I think it's out of my league. This is certainly very recent, it makes sense that not many people are aware of it yet.
    – Trylks
    Mar 14, 2014 at 16:51

6 Answers 6


Philosophy of Science, History of Science, Sociology of Science, Scientometrics to name a few meta-sciences.

(General trick for meta-science: use X of Science, where X is a science. To generalize it even further, for meta-X, use X of Y, for some X in Y.)

  • Philosophy of Science doesn't sound as a meta-science, unless you want to imply that philosophy is a science. Similarly for History of Science. Sociology of Science focuses on social aspects of science, but not science itself as a process. Scientometrics is about measuring, but not science. Newton didn't simply measure the orbits of the planets, measuring may be a first step, but it takes many others to make science. Please correct me if wrong.
    – Trylks
    Feb 18, 2014 at 10:01
  • @Trylks Then I don't understand what are you looking for. Could you give one or two examples of research topics that would fit in "meta-science"? Feb 18, 2014 at 11:14
  • 2
    @Trylks "Sociology of Science focuses on social aspects of science, but not science itself as a process." It's not true. Try looking at Ludwik Fleck, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact that specifically address science as a process. (Though, I won't defend name "sociology of science" - names are always artificial.) Scientometrics - did you read the Wikipedia page? It's not "research on measurement" but "measurement of research". Feb 18, 2014 at 11:19
  • I once met a philosopher of the philosophy of science branch. They were interested to find out e.g. what types of knowledge can be gererated by simulations, what the general limits of this are etc. The practical part sounded like sociology or anthropology, just they went to some science labs to conduct their interviews instead of to wealthy or not-so-wealthy neighborhoods. Feb 18, 2014 at 21:24
  • 1
    Let's make it recursive! "I study X of X" and then compound it a couple times!!! Jul 15, 2017 at 6:37

Are you asking about scientometrics?

From Wikipedia: "Scientometrics is the study of measuring and analysing science research." http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientometrics

It's a major field of study in its own right, with its own journals, etc.

Citation analysis, mentioned by James Barrett, is one area of scientometrics; there are many others. For example, formal studies of the prevalence of research fraud also fall in this category.

  • I'd expect a doctor to do something more than just measuring my constants and maybe predicting when am I going to die. I'm talking about this, but this is just a first step, it takes many more steps to advance in the state of the art (as compared to diagnose and treat a patient).
    – Trylks
    Feb 18, 2014 at 10:23
  • 1
    @Trylks So, you are asking if there have been clinical trials on the research of research? :) I really don't understand where you are going with this analogy.
    – ff524
    Feb 18, 2014 at 13:17
  • you are trying to understand meta-science from a particular science, that will never work. Is like trying to understand 4D in a 3D world, or 3D in a 2D world. Meta-science is science about science, it's not simply metrics about science. The analogy means that science is more than measuring.
    – Trylks
    Feb 18, 2014 at 13:32
  • 1
    If you look at the content of Scientometrics (the journal), you will see that the field is quite broad, encompassing the analysis of virtually anything quantifiable about science research. If you are interested in studies of non-quantifiable characteristics of research, @Piotr Migdal has listed additional fields that cover those pretty thoroughly.
    – ff524
    Feb 18, 2014 at 13:43

If the objective of meta-science is to determine what are the good ways to perform science, it immediately runs into a major methodological hurdle: it is necessarily going to beg the question. That is why work by e.g. Popper counts as "merely" philosophy of science. So if that is the meaning of your question, then the question "Give me meta-science that is not philosophy of science" is similar to "give me an answer to 2+2 that is not 4". It will only result in bad answers, because you are excluding the only good answer.

If the objective of meta-science is to better understand what happens in the practice of science, then you cannot exclude sociology of science, as science is a social activity (you mention impact factors yourself: I do not think any discipline is better suited at understanding those than sociology, or the related field of scientometrics).

So the question is poorly formulated and cannot be answered satisfactorily. The current first answer (Piotr Migdal) would be the best answer if the question was modified in such a way that it can be answered.

  • 1
    then the question "Give me meta-science that is not philosophy of science" is similar to "give me an answer to 2+2 that is not 4". - No, it's not similar at all, should I elaborate?. BTW: "The CoffeeScript compiler is itself written in CoffeeScript" [ref]. Give that idea a second.
    – Trylks
    Feb 21, 2014 at 18:14
  • You aren't going to bootstrap your way into a science of science without begging all of the important philosophical questions. If you were to discover a way to do this, you'd have figured out a way to make philosophy a science. Lots of very, very smart philosophers have been trying to do this for nearly 400 years and all the efforts thus far have failed.
    – user10636
    Apr 21, 2014 at 16:08

There has been some research done on citation patterns. See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citation_analysis. A recent post asked Is there an inflation in the number of authors per paper?.


The sociology of science is another possible avenue. It may not qualify as the most data driven way to study science but it does shed some interesting light on the effects of intermediate reports, naming of concepts, and funding strategies amongst many other topics. You may liken it more to the study of scientists rather than of science per se.


In bioinformatics, it is common to do the data mining, generalization and normalization, putting together results of multiple past research projects. See for instance the Genevestigator project that does normalized analysis of multiple available micro-array experiments.

The idea behind this project was that while raw data obtained by different laboratories are largely of the same type, the subsequent processing and normalization is often too different to make the numeric results actually comparable. The project collects raw data and applies the same normalization for them.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .