Barriers to cross-disciplinary knowledge flow: The case of medical education research

Farah Friesen
Mathieu Albert
Paula Rowland
Suzanne Laberge
Soort article
Original Research
Citations analysis,
Higher education,
Medical education,
Verscheen in

Introduction The medical education research field operates at the crossroads of two distinct academic worlds: higher education and medicine. As such, this field provides a unique opportunity to explore new forms of cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange.

Methods Cross-disciplinary knowledge flow in medical education research was examined by looking at citation patterns in the five journals with the highest impact factor in 2017. To grasp the specificities of the knowledge flow in medical education, the field of higher education was used as a comparator. In total, 2031 citations from 64 medical education and 41 higher education articles published in 2017 were examined.

Results Medical education researchers draw on a narrower range of knowledge communities than their peers in higher education. Medical education researchers predominantly cite articles published in health and medical education journals (80% of all citations), and to a lesser extent, articles published in education and social science journals. In higher education, while the largest share of the cited literature is internal to the domain (36%), researchers cite literature from across the social science spectrum. Findings suggest that higher education scholars engage in conversations with academics from a broader range of communities and perspectives than their medical education colleagues.

Discussion Using Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of doxa and field, it is argued that the variety of epistemic cultures entering the higher education research space contributes to its interdisciplinary nature. Conversely, the existence of a relatively homogeneous epistemic culture in medicine potentially impedes cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange.


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