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Is the utility of a method of social inquiry dependent on geographical location?

Posted 31/8/2015

I have just returned from the general conference of the European Sociological Association in Prague, where about 2000 researchers from all over Europe were present.

Contrary to the vast majority of previous conferences that I have attended in the past, however, my presentation about the results of a methodological evaluation of QCA had been assigned to a panel within the Quantitative Methods section. Of course, this alone would have been surprising yet hardly worth a blog entry. But what I found startling was that, after my presentation, several researchers came up to me and told me that they liked the presentation even though they had never heard of QCA before, let alone understood what I was talking about. In fact, at no point throughout the conference week did I meet anyone among the 2000 participants with whom I had an informed exchange about QCA!

As a matter of fact, this has never happened to me at a general political science conference in Europe, and it could probably not have happened either at a general sociology conference in the USA (I've actually never been to one so far). Why? A look at the publication figures of those journals which have featured most empirical QCA studies to date reveals a noticeable skew: in the USA, most QCA studies have appeared in the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, and Social Forces, whereas in Europe, most QCA studies have appeared in the European Journal of Political Research and the European Journal of Public Policy, all of which count among the top of the journal league in their respective fields. In contrast, QCA has been completely absent from the American Political Science Review and the American Journal of Political Science.

In a recent mail exchange, the editorial office of the American Journal of Political Science also suggested to me not to submit QCA-related work because it would not be relevant to their readership, roughly the same reply I got from the European Sociological Review. What's going on here? Is the utility of QCA as a method of causal data analysis dependent on the geographical location of the researcher or the respective sub-discipline of the social sciences, or some combination of the two? My first, and any following guess would be that it is not. Why should QCA be relevant to US sociologists and European political scientists, whereas on the other side of the Atlantic it would be the other way around?! The answer to this question must lie somewhere else. If you want, I'd love to discuss this with you, ideally at one of my next sociology conferences in Europe, or one of my next political science conferences in the USA.

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