The Science of Science…

The UM Center for the Study of Complex Systems is hosting a talk on “a new approach to the science of science” tomorrow by a postdoctoral scholar at Chicago.
13 Nov 2012, 411 West Hall, 12-1pm

TitleToward an ecology of ideas: a new approach to the science of science
Speaker: Jacob Foster, U Chicago

Abstract.  The study of ideas is ripe for a revolution. The growing electronic availability of scientific text allows us to identify large-scale patterns in the dynamic network of knowledge claims. These patterns, in turn, can be used to expose the biases, strategies, and social processes that give knowledge its shape and govern its evolution. I illustrate this approach by describing the first quantitative exploration of what Thomas Kuhn called the “essential tension” between safe, career-preserving “tradition” and risky, history-making “innovation.” By analyzing over 6 million abstracts from PubMed, I show that scientists persistently focus on digging deeper into established knowledge (tradition) and largely ignore opportunities to make new connections (innovation). Probabilistic models of research choice allow us to quantify scientists’ preferences, while careful analysis of incentives (including a unique database of thousands of prize-winners in biomedicine) suggests mechanisms for forming and reinforcing these preferences. I show that such preferences are efficient for initial exploration of a knowledge network but highly inefficient for further exploration. My approach builds on the fundamental insight that science is a complex system, a rich and evolving ecology of ideas, people, and practices. I close by outlining the implications of the emerging science of ideas for our understanding of the wider social world.

Advertisements

About cyberprofgus

I am a computational cosmologist and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Michigan.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s