Kelly Hills, Data Miner

Kelly Hills has been data-mining – collecting and collating information about the frequency with which certain terms appear in paper titles in three journals: the JME, Bioethics, and the AJoB.

I was going to say that the charts are not much use, but that they are pretty and quite cool; and I was going to add that their lack of utility doesn’t matter at all because prettiness and coolness is sufficient to make them worth looking at.  Not everything worthwhile is worthwhile because it’s useful, after all.  Being a philosopher, I have to believe that.

But then it occurred to me that there probably is some utility to them.  Taken with some care, they help us to see what is held to be important by people publishing work – and, I suppose, they might also help decide which journals are more receptive to certain topics (or, conversely, which journals are saturated with them).

Here’s what the JME‘s chart looks like:

The image isn’t perfect, of course: because size is a mark of brute numbers and the algorithm that generates the image isn’t sensitive to context, “ethics”, and “ethical” get separated, when the reality might not indicate that they merit separate consideration.  “Euthanasia” gets only a small amount of attention – which tells us something about the heat-to-light ratios in debates on the topic.  It also gives some support to John Coggon’s idea that it’s getting hard to find anything new worth saying in that particular field – though I’d’ve thought the same, and more, would apply in respect of consent, and that seems to generate a heck of a lot of attention.

  • Data miner is such an interesting mental image.

    I’m probably going to go back and redo all three, pulling out the “gimmes” of ethics, ethical, and bioethics, and perhaps even research and clinical – even though I do think that it’s interesting that, unlike Paul Knoepfler’s focus, where “stem” and “cells” absolutely had to be pulled from article titles to achieve any meaningful data, that wasn’t the case within bioethics.

    This was actually all started because a Canadian lawyer asked me last week who published in “Bioethics”, anyhow; in explaining different journal markets to her, I got curious over whether or not the split was actual or perceived. The title cloud is at least a very quick’n’dirty visual way to see not only what is being published where (which did confirm the perceived splits), but what particular combination of words would tilt a paper towards being more likely to “fit” with everything else being published. Looks like you guys may really like a paper on “Research Ethics, Medical Consent and Informed Clinical Care.”