Last week, I was having lunch with a colleague and she asked me, “what is your research niche?” The answer did not come as easily because it was something I was struggling with before. Ever since I started my PhD, I was exploring various perspectives, not trying to settle with a specific scientific field. Working at the interface of many fields including pharmaceutical sciences, innovation studies, scientometrics, sociology of science and management, I did not want to settle with a field afraid that it would lock me in. After all, it is an important decision as it would affect the future career opportunities I could pursue in academia. The answer should be something that I am greatly interested in, something that I can stand exploring in for the rest of my academic career. At the same time, it should be something that would have an exciting future ahead of it.
Finding the field I identify with was a journey, picking up nuggets along the way. One is collaborating with a supervisor whose expertise is bibliometrics. This exposed me to journals like Scientometrics that always interested me whenever new issues would be released as various studies get creative in analyzing various texts. I was also very interested in data science, curious about the new techniques people apply to analyze and present data. At the same time, I was fascinated with how new academic fields started. This article by Hambrick and Chen, “New academic fields as admittance-seeking social movements: The case of strategic management” was one of the first that I read on the topic. With my interest forming in such direction, I had to read Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions which confirmed my interest in this field whatever it is called.
All of these nuggets seem unrelated at first but they were pointing towards something. The problem was I did not know what to call the field I was interested in. Fortunately, a review published recently in Science by Fortuno et al. helped me. In their review, they were able to put into words what I was really excited studying in my future academic career. It is called the “Science of Science.” They viewed the science of science as “a transdisciplinary approach that uses large data sets to study the mechanisms underlying the doing of science.”
With what I am doing now, studying how fragment-based drug discovery emerged as a scientific field, I felt that this review deeply resonated with me. I encourage everyone else, even those not from my field to read it, as it is very fascinating.