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  1. Can Qualitative Social Science Make it in the Health Research Field? Mathieu Albert Wilson Centre University of Toronto

  2. Two Papers • Albert, M., Laberge, S., & Hodges, Brian D. (2009) Boundary work in the health research field: Biomedical and clinician scientists’ perceptions of social science research. Minerva. A Review of Science, Learning and Policy. 47(2): 171-194. • Albert, M., Laberge, S., Hodges, B.D., Regehr, G. & Lingard, L. (2008). Biomedical scientists’ perception of social science in health research. Social Science & Medicine, 66: 2520-2531. • Personal experience

  3. Interdisciplinary Research Organizational Boundaries

  4. CULTURALBOUNDARIES (Bourdieu, Gieryn)

  5. Participants 31 BIOMEDICAL SCIENTISTS 30 CLINICIAN SCIENTISTS • Semi-structured interviews

  6. SELECTION CRITERIA Members of peer review committees at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Exert influence on scientific activities • Embody an institutionalized definition of scientific excellence

  7. THEME Opinions concerning the value of the social sciences

  8. THEME • Appraisal of different research methods(experimental, quasi-exp., qualitative and quantitative survey approaches)

  9. INDIVIDUAL RECEPTIVENESS Highly receptive 5 4.6 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.3 4.2 4 4 3.8 3.8 3.6 3.5 3.4 Ambivalence zone 3.3 3.2 3 3 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.5 2.4 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.2 2 2 1.8 1.8 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.3 Clinician scientists 1.2 1.2 Biomedical scientists 1 Highly unreceptive

  10. INDIVIDUAL RECEPTIVENESS Highly receptive 5 4.6 Ambivalence zone Clinician scientists 1.2 Biomedical scientists 1 Highly unreceptive

  11. INDIVIDUAL RECEPTIVENESS Highly receptive 5 4.6 4.6 4.5 4.4 4.3 4.2 4 4 3.8 3.8 Ambivalence zone Clinician scientists Biomedical scientists Highly unreceptive

  12. INDIVIDUAL RECEPTIVENESS Highly receptive Ambivalence zone 2.4 2.3 2.3 2.2 2.2 2 2 1.8 1.8 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.3 Clinician scientists 1.2 1.2 Biomedical scientists 1 Highly unreceptive

  13. INDIVIDUAL RECEPTIVENESS Highly receptive 3.6 3.5 3.4 Ambivalence zone 3.3 3.2 3 3 2.8 2.8 2.6 2.5 Clinician scientists Biomedical scientists Highly unreceptive

  14. RECEPTIVE INDIVIDUALS The questions arejust as relevant

  15. RECEPTIVE INDIVIDUALS The methods arejust as scientific & rigorous

  16. RECEPTIVE INDIVIDUALS Some aspects of health can only be studied by the Social Sciences

  17. THE LEGITMACYOFAMETHOD • Depends on its capacity to adequately respond to a research question

  18. THE LEGITMACYOFAMETHOD • Not the degree to which it conforms to a given scientific paradigm

  19. RECEPTIVE INDIVIDUALS There are no universal criteria that would make it possible to determine a priori the superiority of one method over another

  20. “The choice of a method depends exclusively on the research question. Certain questions can only be studied using qualitative methods; one must therefore use them without asking oneself if they are less rigorous than quantitative methods. All methods are rigorous; it depends on the way in which they are used.”

  21. “It’s not fair to critique the social sciences by saying they interpret data because we do that all the time in basic science when we get data that doesn’t fit with what we expect. When that happens, we start looking at alternative explanations. So, my first answer would be that there is more bias in social science, but if I were really thinking critically – which we don’t often do – I might probably be willing to sit on the fence and say it is probably the same in basic science.”

  22. Although half of the clinician scientists appeared to be receptive to social science...

  23. ... are they actually receptive to the kind of science that social scientists do?

  24. good methodology =good qualitative research

  25. Multiple coding • Purposive sampling • Sample saturation • Triangulation • Member checking • Peer debriefing • Audit trail

  26. UNRECEPTIVE INDIVIDUALS The best science must involve theperformance of an intervention on variables

  27. UNRECEPTIVE INDIVIDUALS This intervention must be done in a controlled environment or with a randomized sample in order to permit the establishment of a causal relationship or a correlational relationship

  28. UNRECEPTIVE INDIVIDUALS Results must be reproducible to ensure that they are not due to chance

  29. Social Science is not a legitimate scientific practice Hierarchy among research methods

  30. “Experiments where there is perturbation of some parameters and measures to establish causality is sort of the highest level of scientific research, and then the next level is looking at relationships, and this would be quantitative surveys and epidemiology. Interviews and focus groups? They’re anecdotes. They’re opinions. And opinions are not science.”

  31. AMBIVALENTINDIVIDUALS A cautious acceptance of the Social Sciences Reservations regarding qualitative research

  32. EXPOSURE No Exposure Exposure

  33. “Like most of my colleagues in the biomedical sciences, I thought that rigor and logic were the characteristics of the basic sciences. But when I got to know the social sciences better, I realized that logic and rigor actually constitute one of their strengths. And that, for me, was a real shock. ”

  34. CONCLUSION The perception of social science research differ importantly both among Biomedical scientists and Clinician scientists.

  35. CONCLUSION Clinician scientists seem to be more receptive

  36. CONCLUSION Biomedical scientists seem to be more unreceptive

  37. CONCLUSION It could be worthwhile to put in place educational mechanisms to better educate health scientists about the usefulness and rigor of social science research

  38. Can Qualitative Social Science Make it in the Health Research Field? • Comments inspired by my professional experience

  39. Yes and No • Yes, if you follow the rules of the game in Health Research • No, if you persist in playing the scientific game according to the rules in SSC

  40. What are the rules in the (medical) Health domain?

  41. 3000 words paper (clinical journals) • Often to provide useful information (problem-solving) • No theory (descriptive analysis) • No thorough review of the literature • No comprehensive discussion (data, interpretation and theoretical implications) • Limited contribution to (basic) knowledge-building

  42. Productivity (3000 words versus 10000 words papers) • Books, book chapters, reports

  43. If you don’t play the scientific game according to the (medical) Health Research rules, it is unlikely that you will be successful in the Health domain...

  44. A potential strategy: Have a dual production, one for the community of social scientists and one for the community of health scientists.

  45. Thank you Questions? Comments?