According to a worldwide well-known attitude, also in Italy, the assessment of scientific production in the last decades has been progressively based on the analysis of the impact through bibliometric variables. Various data sets, such as Scopus by Elsevier and Web of Science by Thomson Reuters, are designed and maintained to index a steadily increasing range of essays: mostly journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings. The indexing relays on the capacity to evaluate and update specific impact measures by keeping track of the citations representing the relations between the essays. The related opportunity to interpret bibliographic systems as research and development (R&D) networks attracted the interest of scientists operating, beyond the field of bibliometric analysis, in the realm of social networking. Network analysis belongs to mechanical statistics and is able to make sense of interconnected systems including very large sets of nodes and links. In this paper, we present a network approach to the review of the scientific production in the time period January, 2003-June, 2016 of Italian agricultural engineers, namely scientists belonging to the Italian ministerial scientific disciplinary sector AGR/10 - rural buildings and agro-forestry territory. Starting from 238 articles indexed in the Web of Knowledge database and published by 87 AGR/10 scholars, we apply four network analysis approaches to the study of the citations among articles, the most influential journals and topics, the co-authorship, the most favourite keywords with their evolution in time, and the communities’ pattern. We discover that Italian agricultural engineers are interlaced in a sparse network with a still limited tendency toward citing each other and are inclined to team up in established research groups based on a single university. As for the dualism between rural buildings and territory, we document on a relevant expansion of the issues related to landscape analysis and planning and a continuous renewal of studies concerning the relation between rural buildings and biomass and energy management. We advance that Italian agricultural engineers are not confronted anymore with two monolithic macro themes, i.e. building design and landscape analysis and planning. Instead, the complexity and interplay between these two domains has dramatically increased in a somehow diverging universe of even more specialised and trans-scale topics.
Agricultural engineering; bibliometric analysis; network analysis; community detection; main research issues.