Map of scientific research on Communication in Spain: study fronts and rankings of authors, publications and institutions [open access article]

Scientific research in communication. Spain universities
Source: Trillo-Domínguez and De-Moya-Anegón 2022. Click to access


This work presents a current map of scientific research on Communication in Spain, identifying both the research fronts of the publications with the greatest impact over the last three years (2019–2021) and the authors who led such work and their universities of reference. The original methodology applied herein focuses on an analysis of the cited authors.

After a careful selection process, we work with a corpus of more than 800 articles, using Scopus and the VOSviewer software to generate a co-referencing map and throw light on the structure of the Communication field. On the basis of that analysis, we identify nine thematic clusters, with a particular grouping structure, leading authors, and relationships around fields of study such as communication, democracy and power, audiences and media consumption, the media industry, journalistic practice, fact checking and disinformation, journalistic innovation, and SEO journalism.

The ranking of cited authors, where Ramón Salaverría and Rasmus K. Nielsen hold equal first position and the Chilean Claudia Mellado is the only woman at the head of a strong group, is put into context by analyzing their scientific production and the normalized impact in Communication of their institutions. The comparative analysis reveals the elite Spanish authors in Communication (Xosé López-García, Ignacio Aguaded, Andreu Casero-Ripollés, Lluís Codina, and Ramón Salaverría) and shows how universities in Madrid maintain their importance in terms of production but that those in Catalunya have the lead in terms of impact. The research is completed with a map of keyword co-occurrence that confirms the barrage of studies around the Covid crisis and the parallel and growing number of hoaxes (fakes). The research confirms the relevance of and opportunity to apply scientometric techniques to the Communication field.


Scientific maps; Science maps; Communication research; Journalism; Scientometrics; Rankings; Authors; Researchers; Software; Universities; Scientific excellence; Trends; Lines of investigation; Impact; Data visualization; VOSviewer; Scopus; Scientific production; Journals; Research groups; Publications; Institutions; Research fronts.


Neither Communication nor the Social Sciences can ignore the advances being made by scientometry (from network analysis and bibliometric maps to advanced visualization techniques) in other fields of knowledge. Such advances based on the application of methodologies, software, and tools provide objectivity and rigor to studies as well as data to analyze and evaluate the output of researchers, levels of scientific cooperation, the impact of state funding of science, or its impact on the educational system (Moral-Muñoz et al., 2020): “Measuring is knowing”. We agree with the cited authors in using this quote from Van-Raan (2004), an eloquent statement attributed to Onnes, to describe the growing importance of observation and measurement as a foundation for the construction of science, in any area of knowledge today, of any science. In citing, for example, Asimov (2010), they remind us that modern science emerged when Nature was dissected by measurement methods, thus showing how both professionals and researchers require a set of theoretical and practical tools to quantify, evaluate, and analyze experimental data.

Perhaps we stand before the Achilles’ heel of the Social Sciences: the weakness of and lack of innovation in the scientific method. Authors such as Salaverría (2015), Steensen (2011), and García-Avilés (2021) warn, for example, of the need to innovate in Journalism in terms of both fields of study and research strategies to go beyond surveys, interviews, or case studies.

The update carried out by Moral-Muñoz, Herrera-Viedma, Santisteban-Espejo, and Cobo (2020) on the tools available to do bibliometric and scientometric analyses, including data acquisition sources, performance analysis, and visualization tools, well illustrates the opportunities open to researchers in this digital world (Negroponte, 2000) that is increasingly being transformed into a tyrannical data-driven society where technological progress marks the advances of science (with the accelerated rollout of artificial intelligence), as well as the most everyday objects as reflected in the Internet of Things.

Just as Data Journalism and fact checking are opening the way to counteract the disinformation and fakes that invade the post-truth era resulting from the ubiquity of the Internet and the explosion of social networks, we believe that relying on scientific methods will help research in Communication by guaranteeing an objective foundation with a strong preference for quantitative analysis. All this must of course be carried out without undermining the subsequent necessary interpretation, critical analysis, and discussion of the data. This is essential in both the journalistic field that we take as an example herein as well as the wider area of Communication and Social Sciences that includes it.

From this perspective, and as a starting point to evaluate the connection between Scientometry and the Communication studies that we propose in this work, we must highlight the growing importance of “bibliometry,” using the term coined by Pritchard (1969) for the study of scientific publications, considering the outstanding development that this discipline is experiencing in parallel with the dizzying progress of science and the development of platforms and databases.

Source: Trillo-Domínguez and De-Moya-Anegón 2022. Click to access

On the one hand, these collect the enormous amount of data indexed in academic journals, books, patents, and proceedings (titles, authors, citations, keywords, institutions, etc.) while providing, on the other, a valuable sample to carry out scientific evaluation research using bibliometric techniques (Gutiérrez-Salcedo et al., 2018) that we consider perfectly extrapolable to the Communication field.




Trillo-Domínguez, Magdalena; De-Moya-Anegón, Félix (2022). “Map of scientific research on Communication
in Spain: study fronts and rankings of authors, publications and institutions”. Profesional de la información, v.
31, n. 1, e310112.

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