Tomás Koch about his dissertation: "Striving for worldwide impact : a multi-method study on the internationalization processes of Chilean scholarly communities"

(01-04-2021) On the 26th of February Tomás Fernando Koch Ewertz successfully defended his dissertation.

Based on different research strategies, Tomás's Ph.D. dissertation analyses the internationalization trends in scholarly communities in Chile, it discusses the different orientations these processes have taken across time, and sheds light on the possibilities and pitfalls of current expectations. Internationalization processes in science have traditionally been understood as the ‘natural’ path for the development of scholarly communities. In spite of nationalist orientations, which notoriously led to the closure of some networks (e.g., in the Nazi Germany or in the URSS during the Cold War), the universalist ambitions of science often support representations that depict a teleological process oriented to the formation of a worldwide community of scholars with shared normative and cognitive orientations. By using a multi-method approach (scientometrics, discourse analysis and interviews), this research questions this seemingly ‘natural’ path in (semi‑)peripheral scholarly communities while discussing the ostensibly objective and technical traits of widespread internationalization measures.

The different methodological strategies used strive to produce a more comprehensive view of the internationalization practices in scholarly communities and of the historical transitions experienced in the different ecologies that underpin scholarly communication networks. The main findings of the research are nuanced. While they show the current omnipresence of images of the world of science provided by international databases and indexes, they also highlight the different reactions to the internationalization pressures. These conflicting reactions – ranging from the reinforcement of continental networks to diverging appraisals of scientometric tools – show that internationalization is far from being a shared, ahistorical, and neutral concept, and highlight the (lasting) important role played by local, national, and continental networks within the world of science.   

Overall, the dissertation clarifies the consequences of the rise of international databases and indexes to describe and evaluate internationalization processes, discusses the performative effects of the powerful representations of the world of science provided by these instruments, and brings the forms of inequality in the world system to the fore. As argued throughout the dissertation, securing scientific diversity is beneficial for the scholarly communities in the (semi-)periphery, but also for the world of science itself, and it may help to protect important aspects of the so-called ethos of science, such as its communalist and universalist values.

Tomás's doctoral research project was supervised by Prof. Dr. Raf Vanderstraeten and Dr. Ricardo Ayala Valenzuela.

The doctoral jury consisted of Prof. Dr. Jeroen Huisman (Ghent University), Prof. Dr. Lesley Hustinx (Ghent University), Prof. Dr. Steven Vanden Broecke (Ghent University), Prof. Dr. Frédéric Vandermoere (Antwerp University), and Prof. Dr. Daniel Chernilo (Universidad Adolfo Ibañez).