In terms of "Academic Sociology" we can see non-string QG, especially Loop, getting more established as new centers grow up. Today I got news of a new center at Erlangen. An email from Thomas Thiemann was circulated. Here's an excerpt:
"The successful candidate will be part of the new international centre for quantum gravity
at the FAU which is currently in its building up phase. In the close future the centre will host one W3 professor position (chair),
three W2 (associate, tenured) professor positions
and at least three postdoc positions
plus guests, fellows, PhD and diploma students."
[so that means 4 tenured professors, and at least 3 postdocs, one hopes more]
"Altogether, there is space for up to 30 scientists. Current staff includes professors Michael Thies and Thomas Thiemann
(chair), Emeriti Frieder Lenz (former chair) and Hartmut Hofmann, postdocs Emanuele Alesci
, Enrique Ferandez Borja,
and Inaki Garay, as well as Phd and Diploma students."
Thiemann's name should be familiar. Prominent in the Loop research community for some 15 years. Most of that time divided between Perimeter Institute (at Waterloo) and the Albert Einstein Institute (AEI at Potsdam-Golm).
Engle was Ashtekar's PhD student, then postdoc with Rovelli at Marseille, then at the AEI with Thiemann. Alesci is a Rovelli PhD who postdoc'd at Marseille and AEI.
Until recently the AEI was the only center for Loop QG research in Germany. Today's news from Thiemann falls in line with a trend towards proliferation of centers. In France this process occurred earlier. The first center was set up at Marseille, when Rovelli moved there. Now there are researchers at Lyon and Tours, with related work also being done at Montpellier and Saclay.
One can see a similar process occurring in Poland, among other places. Also a proliferation of centers involved in QG research which is not Loop, but somewhat related like CDT (Triangulations QG)
We now have what seems like a pretty good Loop publication index. It uses the Spires base with DESY keywords "spin, foam", "field theory, group", "quantum gravity, loop space", and "quantum cosmology, loop space".
As of 14 November the numbers of publications in successive years were:
2009 112 (incomplete)
Europe tends to be ahead of the USA in Quantum Gravity so it is not surprising that the first popular book specifically focused on the Loop approach should appear in Europe. Martin Bojowald's Zurück vor den Urknall
("Before the Big Bang", I abbreviate it ZvU). I've been checking its amazon.de rank at 6PM Berlin time. For a comparison I'm using a string benchmark---the average rank of the 3 currently most popular string books
9 November 1.6
11 November 0.5
12 November 0.7
14 November 0.9
To illustrate, at 6PM central European time on 14 November, Zurück ranked 8253, and the three most popular stringies (which happened to be Stoff, Verborgene, and Elegante) ranked 6349, 6867, 8250 for an average 7155.3 and ratio 0.87.