Vai al contenuto principale
Coronavirus: aggiornamenti per la comunità universitaria / Coronavirus: updates for UniTo Community

Has Economics Finally Become an Immature Science? Mapping Economics at an Epoch of Fragmentation, by Combining Historical Perspectives and New Quantitative Approaches

Progetti nazionali
Programma di ricerca
PRIN 2017
Ente finanziatore
Settore ERC
SH1_14 - History of economics and economic thought, quantitative and institutional economic history
SH6_9 - History of ideas, intellectual history, history of sciences and techniques
18/03/2020 - 18/03/2023
Mario Aldo Cedrini

Partecipanti al progetto

Descrizione del progetto

upload_MP.PNGProject Units: 

  1. Università degli Studi di SIENA (Alberto Baccini; principal investigator)
  2. Università degli Studi di TORINO (Mario Cedrini; associated investigator)

Continuously growing in size and diversity, economics appears as a more and more heterogeneous discipline, tending towards a state of “immaturity”, to borrow from Kuhn. Due to specialization, scientific progress occurs at the frontier, not within one paradigm, but within many local paradigms. Mainstream economics is now populated by a plurality of research programmes that significantly deviate from the neoclassical core. The resulting pluralistic landscape is a theoretical challenge to the established view of the mainstream of the discipline as monolithic.
This research project aims to provide the set of “science maps” – representing the structure and interconnections between research programmes in historical perspective – required to navigate the discipline at a time of increased fragmentation. The originality of the analysis stems from explicitly integrating qualitative and quantitative techniques, in the awareness that quantitative analysis can be safely used to formulate and test theories only when supported by qualitative research. The four main tools here employed to draw such maps are selected based on their ability to mimic the possible inherent properties of the puzzle to explain, that is fragmentation. This latter can be “content-based” (c-b) or “content-neutral” (c-n), that is of mainly institutional nature; and it can result from scholars’ explicit quest for differentiation from the core (“explicit structure”, es), or be the latent result of specialization as research strategy (“latent structure”, ls). Upon completion, the research team will have produced:

1) "History of economic thought" (HET) maps (c-b, es), representing – in a (non-traditional) “intellectual history” perspective, focusing on communities of scholars as unit of analysis – the history of economic theory as sequence of research programmes having origins and developing in localized contexts;

2) "Interlocking editorships" (IE) maps (c-b, ls), focusing on the basic tools of scientific communication in economics (the dataset will include editorial boards – observed every ten years – of all economics journals from 1926 to 2016). IE maps depict relationships between different economics journals in different moments of time by scrutinizing through network analysis tools the crossed presence of scholars on their editorial boards;

3) "Gatekeepers of economics" (GoE) maps (c-n, es), which focus explicitly on editors. While IE maps associate overlapping journal boards with scientific proximity, GoE maps emphasize the academic-power dimension of ties between economics journals;

4) “Topic-modeling” (TM) maps (c-n, ls), which result from applying unsupervised text-mining techniques to the full content of the whole collection of articles published in the economics journals stored in the digital library JSTOR. Automatically detecting recurring themes (topics) in the form of co-occurring words, TM maps are able to decode the latent structure of economics in historical perspective.

The set of maps thereby obtained will show evidence of the cross-fertilization between the “distant reading” perspective typical of quantitative analyses of the history of economics (the originality the method stemming from considering the full text of economic articles, rather than metadata or specific features) and the “closer” reading of established qualitative approaches to the evolution of the discipline. Acting as virtual traits d’union between HET and TM maps, the “intermediate” reading perspective provided by maps of the dissemination of knowledge (IE and GoE maps) also remedy the lack of accurate data that impedes robust historical bibliometric analyses.
Once integrated into a coherent whole, the maps will contribute to the general purpose of identifying “fragmentation markers” for the discipline, to be employed to test alternative theories about the evolution of economics. A non-secondary, concrete aim of the project is to highlight possible major faults or biases involved in human-assigned classification systems like the Journal of Economic Literature codes. Aimed to both produce and facilitate further knowledge development, the proposed mapping exercise and its innovative methodology are expected to have significant scientific impact. The project will give life to an interactive open-science platform making all datasets and maps (the general “latent” – topic-guided – map of the economics discipline in historical perspective; “IE” and “GoE” maps of journal networks over time, and hybrid maps of specific communities of scholars with various “zoom” levels, combining HET and TM techniques) freely available to scholars under CC license for further explorations. The platform can represent a preliminary step towards developing open, innovative online teaching and learning tools and resources, characterized by interactivity, complexity, and implementable contents, stimulating critical reasoning in learners.

Risultati e pubblicazioni

Ambrosino, A., Cedrini, M., Davis, J. B., Fiori, S., Guerzoni, M., & Nuccio, M. (2018). "What topic modeling could reveal about the evolution of economics". Journal of Economic Methodology25(4), 329-348.
R. Marchionatti (2020), Economic Theory in the Twentieth Century, An Intellectual History: 1890-1918; Economics in the Golden Age of Capitalism, Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Mcmillan.
Ambrosino, A., Storti L. (2020) "Interdisciplinarità nella teoria economica: riflessioni sulle spalle di Paolo Sylos Labini", Moneta e Credito, 73(292):285-300.
R. Marchionatti (2020), Economic Theory in the Twentieth Century, An Intellectual History: 1919-1945. Economic Theory in an Age of Crisis and Uncertainty, Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Mcmillan.
Ambrosino, A., Cedrini, M., & Davis, J. B. (2021). "The unity of science and the disunity of economics". Cambridge Journal of Economics45(4), 631-654.
Cedrini, M., & Dagnes, J. (2022). "Economics imperialism and a transdisciplinary perspective". In Handbook of Alternative Theories of Political Economy (pp. 428-442). Edward Elgar Publishing.
Ambrosino, A., Cedrini, M., & Davis, J. B. (2022). "Today’s economics: One, No One, or One Hundred Thousand", mimeo (paper presented at the 19th annual STOREP Conference, Viterbo, May 27, and at the 25th Annual ESHET Conference, Università di Padova, June 10).

Ambrosino, A., Cedrini, M., Durio, A. and Oliveira, T. D. "Learning from the machine: a topic modelling and network analysis of the CJE", mimeo (paper presented at the 19th annual STOREP Conference, Viterbo, May 27, and at the 25th Annual ESHET Conference, Università di Padova, June 10).
Ultimo aggiornamento: 11/07/2022 16:26