Medical Sociology: Highlighting the Move towards Interdisciplinary Research

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Medical Sociology is the most recent section to be launched in Frontiers in Sociology and spans the fields of medicine, public health and the social sciences. We spoke to Specialty Chief Editor, Professor Hannah Bradby, about her motivations for launching the section and why the Frontiers publishing model is especially suited for this research area.

— By Radhaika Kapur

‘Sociology is a field which typically resists definition’ states Professor Hannah Bradby, Specialty Chief Editor of Medical Sociology.

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Professor Hannah Bradby, Specialty Chief Editor of Medical Sociology

Currently based in the Department of Sociology at Uppsala University, Sweden, Professor Bradby has worked as a sociologist of health and medicine since the 1990s. Her research aims to expose ‘the complex set of interests that make up modern medicine, disrupt(ing) simplistic accounts of its beneficence’ (Bradby, 2016). Interdisciplinarity is at the heart of this project and in this interview Professor Bradby explains why open-access publishing is vital for progressive research:

Why is open-access publishing important in Sociology?

“In the social sciences people tend to collaborate. Research is produced together with practitioners and other academics and therefore we cannot operate as small publication communities, our boundaries are too permeable for that. The applied social sciences cross over into different disciplines and our readership is spread out. Publishing open access increases your findability, maximising your searchability through search engines. This allows important work to be discovered by the widely distributed readership. This is something that is very difficult to do if you are publishing in the small independent journals which scholarly societies have produced in the past.”

“The sort of publishing model that Frontiers has, with separate journal sections that are visible to other sections and to all of those who visit the field journal’s web-page, is a model that is useful for the social sciences. It really works to create a network of ideas as opposed to a closed system.’

In addition to being open access what else attracted you to the Frontiers model?

‘I was very interested in the hybrid system of peer review that Frontiers has. In my experience, there are advantages and disadvantages to anonymous and to named review. During the peer-review process with Frontiers, reviewers are anonymous whilst advising the author but in the knowledge that their identity will be revealed in due course. This certainly has a set of effects on how one writes one’s review. Reviewers stand for the best aspects of published articles as well as being partially responsible for their content. I find this to be a very collegiate model.’

Superdiversity

Professor Bradby’s current research focuses on the notion of superdiversity. A  concept introduced by social anthropologist Steven Vertovec in 2007, it highlights the increasing complexity of particular societies. Superdiversity encompasses the variables that determine integration, yet it ‘does not have the baggage of previous vocabularies such as race and ethnicity’ comments Professor Bradby.

‘I began working in academic research 20 years ago, when the social problems surrounding migration were top on the UK’s political agenda. There was a big push to get administrative categories and terminology to think about, conceptualise, and talk about forms of difference that had their origins in migration.’

‘The notion of diversity originally came from migration scholars, but has been picked up across areas of health and social welfare. This epitomises the capacity of terminology and concepts to cross disciplinary boundaries and hence the need for an interdisciplinary dialogue.’

‘Right now, I see a strong demand to engage with concepts such as diversity and superdiversity, particularly here in Sweden. Although diversity is different from migration, a lot of diversity is migration driven. Currently, assimilationist ideas still dominate much of migration discourse. Rather than always focussing on the costs in these circumstances, we need to look more at the benefits and see the positive socio-economic changes that increased diversity can bring.’

Given these demands, what are your aims for the section in the upcoming year?

‘My goal is to have a set of sociological research papers in the section that are interdisciplinary and international. Existing journals and opportunities for publishing are often linked to a particular place, be they American, British or Australian et cetera. What is interesting for me is engaging the international potential that publishing with Frontiers offers.’

‘There is no single theme that is prominent in the field at present. Sociology is a wide umbrella term and sociological research deals with aspects that we all have in common – everyone is an expert in sociology in as much as we live in society. Therefore I don’t want to have a fundamentalist view of what sociology should be doing. Those who have previously tried to define what sociology is often link it to the development of modernity – often conceived of exclusively in terms of European (post)-industrialised society. I am interested in drawing this notion of sociology into question. Hence I am looking for sociological contributions from places that are not industrialised, to see if the theories we have to explain the social world are applicable elsewhere.’

Read more about Professor Bradby’s vision for Medical Sociology in her original research article ‘Is Superdiversity a Useful Concept in European Medical Sociology?’ and Specialty Grand Challenge. You can contribute to the section through submitting a paper or hosting a Research Topic.

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