Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Metascience is research into science as a developer of knowledge.

explanatory context

Etymologically, it is something coming 'after' science, or 'about' science.


Science is here taken to refer to any empirically grounded area of enquiry, through which theoretical statements about the nature of the world (physical, natural or social) are made. This position is synonomous with such terms as 'Wissenschaft', 'scienza' and 'nauka'.


Metascientific study is often regarded as having started with Stanley Schor's, 1966, re-examination of the statistical methods of nearly 300 articles in ten of the main medical journals, which revealed almost three quarters had drawn unjustified conclusions.

analytical review

Radnitzky (1973, p. 6) regards metascience as a scientific discipline:

i.e. a discipline which accumulates knowledge about the scientific enterprise, which checks this knowledge in a systematic way and organizes it into knowledge systems


One particular view, Schooler (2019), regards "meta-science" as a new (quantitative) development in science:

In attempting to understand its own limitations, science is fueling the consolidation of an emerging new discipline: meta-science. Meta-science, the science of science, attempts to use quantifiable scientific methodologies to elucidate how current scientific practices influence the veracity of scientific conclusions. This nascent endeavor is joining the agendas of a variety of fields including medicine, biology, and psychology—each seeking to understand why some initial findings fail to fully replicate. Meta-science has its roots in the philosophy of science and the study of scientific methods, but is distinguished from the former by its reliance on quantitative analysis and from the latter by its broad focus on the general factors that contribute to the limitations and successes of scientific investigations.

This year the most ambitious meta-scientific study to date was published in Science by Brian Nosek and the Open Science Collaboration. A large-scale effort in psychology sought to replicate 100 "quasi-randomly" selected studies from three premier journals and found that less than half (39 percent) of the studies reached traditional levels of significance when replicated. This study is noteworthy because it directed the lens of science not at any particular phenomena but rather at the process of science itself. In this sense, it represents one of the first major implementations of evidence-based meta-science.  Although it is certain to have a major impact on science, only time will tell how it will be remembered.


associated issues


related areas

See also



Radnitzky, G., 1973, Contemporary Schools of Metacience: Anglo-Saxon schools of metascience, Continetal schools of metascience, Chicago, Henry Regnery.

Schooler, J., 2016, 'The infancy of meta-science', available at, accessed 10 June 2019.

Schor, S., 1966, 'Statistical evaluation of medical journal manuscripts', Journal of the American Medical Association, 195(13), p. 1123.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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