Big science, internationalisation, professionnalisation et fonction sociale de la science à travers l’analyse diachronique des recensions d’ouvrage.

  • Françoise Salager-Mayer Universidad de Los Andes
  • María Ángeles Alcaraz Ariza Universidad de Alicante
  • Nahirana Zambrano Universidad de Los Andes


The aim of this paper is to analyze the evolution of some ecdotical variables in an academic genre that has so far received little attention, viz, book reviews (BR). Toward that end, we analyzed 100 BR written in French and published in 2 different time periods: between 1890 and 1900 (Block A) and between 1990 and 2000 (Block B). The variable we studied were: 1) the book reviewed (its length, genre and original language), 2) the book author (a single author, an editor or a co-editor and the way his credentials are presented), 3) the BR itself (its length, the frequency of courtesy markers and of bibliographical references) and 4) the BR author (anonymat vs. identification). Quantitative results were analyzed by means of the Chi square. Our most salient results show that in both Blocks the most frequent book type is the monographie, followed by the traité and the manuel in Bloc A, and by congress proceedings in Bloc B (a genre non-extant in Bloc A). In Block A, BR are 4 times longer than those of Block B (p = .0001). The great majority of the books reviewed in this Bloc are single-authored books (p = .0001 when comparing their frequency to that of multi-authored books) written in French (p = .0001 when comparing their frequency to that of books written in other languages). The BR author very frequently remains “almost-anonymous” (his initials only are mentioned), and courtesy markers are a rhetorical hallmark of these end-of-19th century BR. Conversely, in Block B most books reviewed are multi-authored/edited books (p = .0001 and p = .0047 when comparing their frequency to that registered in Bloc A) written in English (p= .0001 when comparing their frequency with that recorded in Block A). Contrary to what was observed in Block A, most books reviewed in Block B are then collaborative works. Finally, the name of the publishing company is a routine feature of BR in Bloc B, whereas it not so in Bloc A. These quantitative results are explained from a socioconstructivist standpoint. We conclude that they underline the hyper specialization, professionalization and internationalization of today’s science and reflect the increasing social … and commercial concern of today’s scientific enterprise.