Metrics and mechanisms: Measuring the unmeasurable in the science of science

Lingfei Wu, Aniket Kittur, Hyejin Youn, Staša Milojevic, Erin Leahey, Stephen M. Fiore, Yong Yeol Ahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


What science does, what science could do, and how to make science work? If we want to know the answers to these questions, we need to be able to uncover the mechanisms of science, going beyond metrics that are easily collectible and quantifiable. In this perspective piece, we link metrics to mechanisms by demonstrating how emerging metrics of science not only offer complementaries to existing ones, but also shed light on the hidden structure and mechanisms of science. Based on fundamental properties of science, we classify existing theories and findings into: hot and cold science referring to attention shift between scientific fields, fast and slow science reflecting productivity of scientists and teams, soft and hard science revealing reproducibility of scientific research. We suggest that interest about mechanisms of science since Derek J. de Solla Price, Robert K. Merton, Eugene Garfield, and many others complement the zeitgeist in pursuing new, complex metrics without understanding the underlying processes. We propose that understanding and modeling the mechanisms of science condition effective development and application of metrics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101290
JournalJournal of Informetrics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2022


  • 68T50
  • 91D30
  • Citation
  • Measure
  • Novelty 2021 MSC: 68U35
  • Science of science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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