Social Sciences, Humanities & Law

The working group Social Sciences, Humanities & Law (WISSH) focuses on the assessment of scholarly activity in the social sciences, the humanities and law.


Traditionally, the domains of social sciences, humanities, and law (SSHL) have a different orientation towards research methods, communication processes, and the way their peer groups are defined as compared to the natural, life, and medical sciences. Because of the different missions and interactions with their scholarly and societal environments, the analysis, development, and refinement of research assessment methodologies of the SSHL should start from these differences. The variety of scholarly activities and the way the scholars within these domains position themselves towards their audiences results in a variety of types of communication, which is as wide as the difference between these domains and the STEM domains.

So the main mission of the group falls apart in two strands: a first line could focus on the way scholars in the SSHL conduct their research and communicate with their peer groups, both academic and the wider civil-society, while the second line focuses more on the development of indicators to assess the scholarly performance of these scholars in the SSHL domains.

As scholarly organization and communication is different from natural, life, and medical sciences, and as they even vary widely across SSHL, assessment indicators should not simply be transferred from other fields. Instead, the development of indicators for assessing scholarly performance in SSHL should be approached in close collaboration with scholars and research managers in these domains, so as to involve the scholarly community that will be subject to assessment. Such a collaborative approach, we suggest, can help strengthen the position of SSHL in the context of a proliferating evaluation culture, and it is a way of taking seriously the often skeptical reactions by scholars to these evaluations.

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For more information about the WISSH working group, please contact Thed van Leeuwen (working group leader) at


Thed van Leeuwen

Senior researcher and coordinator of the Social Sciences, Humanities & Law (WISSH) working group. Thed's research focuses on the development of indicators for the research assessment of scholarly activity in the social sciences, the humanities, and law. He is co-editor the OUP journal Research Evaluation.

Sarah de Rijcke

Associate professor and deputy director of CWTS, and coordinator of the Evaluation Practices in Context (EPIC) working group. Her research focuses on the growing use of assessment procedures and bibliometric indicators in scientific and scholarly research, and the effects on knowledge production.

Martijn Visser

Researcher and PhD candidate. Martijn's research focuses on data sources for the measurement of research performance.

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