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Metrics and Knowledge Production


Please note: this course description is not fully up-to-date for the academic year 2019-2020. A new version with marginal changes will be presented on this page shortly.


In the governance of scientific research, we observe an increasing tendency to add quantitative measures to the longstanding tradition of qualitative assessment (by reading and commenting on each other’s work). This course will give an overview of the rise of statistical thinking over the last two centuries. This development paved the way for the emergence of scientometrics in the second half of the 20th century.

Scientometrics is the branch of the social sciences that studies scientific and technological developments by means of quantitative methods. We will explore the growth of this relatively young field, by zooming in on what it has enabled and how it has effected academic work.

Students will be introduced to quantitative techniques that chart scientific communication processes and cognitive structures of science and technology, using large-scale databases of scientific and technical publications. We will also discuss the explosion of ‘performance indicators’ in science, which are nowadays used from the level of the individual researcher to that of entire universities (through rankings).

Finally, and as a teaser to minor course on “Visualizing Science”, we will demonstrate some of the possibilities of state of the art mapping techniques in science and technology studies.

Course objectives

After this course students will be able to:

  • Reproduce the basics of the science of science approach, in particular in the quantitative realm of science & technology studies;

  • Develop a critical perspective on the measurement of scientific performance;

  • Develop a basic insight into the birth of the quantitative part of the science of science, in the light of the developments described in Science as Culture: Introduction and Publishing and communicating research


TBA. Twice a week.

Assessment method

The assessment of this course is based upon two elements. The first element of the assessment is an essay on a specific topic related to the course. Instruction on writing an essay is part of the working group meetings. Second element of the assessment is the participation to the course elements, the lectures and working group meetings. This means that participation to the course elements is obligatory, and only in special cases absence of the course elements is allowed.


We will use blackboard as communication platform for lecture notes, assignments and announcements.

Reading list

Via Blackboard we will distribute a Course Guide that contains a full overview of the literature used in the course. Readings will be made available via Blackboard or through the Leiden University Library.


Students can register from 1 May to 31 July via uSis. The course catalogue code is 6000MSCTSN, activity number: TBA.

Please note that we can accommodate a maximum of 40 students. Admission is based on the students’ qualifications + a first come, first served basis.

Students from other universities will need permission to register. Please send an e-mail to Josephine Bergmans via This also applies to Exchange and Study Abroad students. For more general information for international students please see the Study Abroad website.

Contact information

For more information you can contact the minor coordinator Josephine Bergmans.