Raf Vanderstraeten

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2013/2014
discipline Sociology
Professor Department of Sociology, Ghent University

Research project

Conditions and consequences of scientific specialisation


In the systems-theoretical tradition, as well as in related theoretical traditions, the social is primarily conceived in terms of communication networks. With regard to science, emphasis has been put on the emergence of specific media and formats of scientific communication, such as publications in scientific journals. Journal publications now have become the privileged and canonical form of scientific communication.


From the nineteenth century onwards, there have emerged numerous scientific specialisations that consist of networks of publications. The morphogenesis of these specialisations has been addressed in relatively broad terms by sociological ‘grand theories’, such as systems theory. In recent years, a range of empirical case-studies have provided more detailed accounts of the characteristics of different scientific communities and their networks of communication.


A theoretically-informative synthesis of the empirical findings, that would make it possible to evaluate the relevance of these results, is still wanting. In a kind of feedback loop, the theoretical implications of the range of currently available empirical findings need to be clarified. This project aims to update the theoretical framework for analysing the conditions and consequences of scientific specialisation.



Raf Vanderstraeten is University Professor and Professor of Sociology in the Ghent University, Department of Sociology, Center for Social Theory. He is currently the director of the Center for Social Theory at Ghent University. He holds a Ph.D. from Leuven University and a Habilitation in Sociology from the Bielefeld University. 


His fields of research are sociological theory, sociology of knowledge, sociology of religion, and sociology of education.

Selected publications


‘Disciplinary networks and bounding: scientific communication between science and technology studies and the history of science’, with F Vandermoere, Minerva, vol. 50, 2012, pp. 451-470. 


‘Scholarly communication in education journals’, Social Science History, vol. 35, 2011, pp. 109-130.


‘Disziplinbildung. Zum Wandel wissenschaftlicher Kommunikation in der Soziologie’, Soziale Systeme, vol. 17, 2010, pp. 297-312.


‘Scientific communication: Sociology journals and publication practices’, Sociology, vol. 44, 2010, pp. 559-576.


‘Soziale Beobachtungsraster: Eine wissenssoziologische Analyse von statistischen Klassifikationsschemata’, Zeitschrift für Soziologie, vol. 35, 2006, pp. 193-211.


‘How is education possible? Pragmatism, communication and the social organisation of education’, with G Biesta, British Journal of Educational Studies, vol. 53, 2006, pp. 160-174.


senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Law
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Philosophy
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Art History
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
discipline Social Anthropology