The hypothesis of a Hierarchy of the Sciences, first formulated in the 19th century, predicts that, moving from simple and general phenomena (e.g. particle dynamics) to complex and particular (e.g. human behaviour), researchers lose ability to reach theoretical and methodological consensus. This hypothesis places each field of research along a continuum of complexity and ‘‘softness’’, with profound implications for our understanding of scientific knowledge. Today, however, the idea is still unproven and philosophically overlooked, too often confused with simplistic dichotomies that contrast natural and social sciences, or science and the humanities. Empirical tests of the hypothesis have usually compared few fields and this, combined with other limitations, makes their results contradictory and inconclusive. We verified whether discipline characteristics reflect a hierarchy, a dichotomy or neither, by sampling nearly 29,000 papers published contemporaneously in 12 disciplines and measuring a set of parameters hypothesised to reflect theoretical and methodological consensus. The biological sciences had in most cases intermediate values between the physical and the social, with bio-molecular disciplines appearing harder than zoology, botany or ecology. In multivariable analyses, most of these parameters were independent predictors of the hierarchy, even when mathematics and the humanities were included. These results support a ‘‘gradualist’’ view of scientific knowledge, suggesting that the Hierarchy of the Sciences provides the best rational framework to understand disciplines’ diversity. A deeper grasp of the relationship between subject matter’s complexity and consensus could have profound implications for how we interpret, publish, popularize and administer scientific research.
Positivist philosopher Auguste Comte (1798–1857) first proposed a ‘‘natural’’ ordering of scientific disciplines based on generality of subject matter [1,2]. From mathematics to sociology, his Hierarchy of the Sciences (HOS) was intended to reflect the growing complexity, inter-dependence, and vicinity to human passions of research fields, all of which determined their level of development as sciences. This idea was abandoned by postpositivist thinking, who increasingly emphasised the irrational side of scientific progress [3,4], leading to the extreme opposite view that disciplines are an unordered product of historical and cultural contingencies, similar to political or artistic currents .
What do we mean by ‘‘hard’’ science? Scholars have treated the topic from a multitude of angles (see [6,7,8]), but all definitions seem to converge on the concept of consensus – consensus, for example, ‘‘on the significance of new knowledge and the continuing relevance of old’’ [9,10,11,12]. Moving towards ‘‘softer’’ fields, this consensus becomes less likely to be reached, the common background shrinks and fractures, and so data become less able to ‘‘speak for themselves’’ . Very general terms, however, the complexity of a system is linked to the number of elements involved, their diversity, the number and non-linearity of interactions between them, the cohesiveness of internal versus external relationships (which determines how isolated the system is), the distance from thermodynamic equilibrium . And whilst phenomena get more complex, our ability to study them decreases.
courtial_1994_coword analysis scientometrics
In this paper, we will study the field through the problematic network built by scientific articles, using actor-network theory (and consequently coword analysis) as a model for scientific knowledge (regarded as a social process) growth. Scientometries is an hybrid field made of invisible college and a lot of users, thus controlled by both scientific re.search and final uses. Coword analysis gives the same weight to all articles, cited or not, and consequently computes the interaction network within all kind of authors. According to already described network properties of scientific interaction, coword analysis describes the dynamic of the field in accordance with what has been observed, and suggest forecast for the futur
They conclude that with time the field is more similar to hard science, although still remaining a social science one The network of clusters is far more important in the second time period, organized around scientific research evaluation instead of data bases. This express the integrated development of the field around scientific research evaluation already described by the papers cited above. A new dynamic may namely depends upon links with other scientific disciplines (economy, science history, management, information science, mathematics etc) and successfully blending all approaches.
beaver_1978_studies in scientific collaboration
From a historical and sociological perspective, this essay presents and develops the first comprehensive theory of scientific collaboration: collaborative Scientific research, formally acknowledged by co-authorships of scientific papers, originated, developed, and continues to be practiced as a response to the professionalization of science. Following an overview of the origins and early history of collaboration in the 17th and 18th centuries, a.study of the first professionalized scientific eommunity~ that of Napoleonic France, confirms that, as the theory predicts, collaboration is atypical research style associated with professionalization. In the early 19th century, virtually all joint research was performed by French scientists; collaborative research only appeared much later in England and Germany when they, too, underwent professionalization. That historical finding, which constitutes a puzzling anomaly for any other view of scientific teamwork, here conforms to theoretical expectation. Several other predictions of the theory are presented, to be taken up in subsequent studies.
Current studies on scientific collaboration can be divided into three categories: those concerned with its statistics, its quality, and its social character. Statistical accounts are concerned primarily with demonstrating that the percentage of research produced by teamwork, albeit highly variable according to scientific field, exhibits a monotonic increase for the past four or five decades. ~ Studies of quality, less concerned with statistics, but equally impressed by teamwork's apparent recency and its rate of growth, attempt to evaluate its significance for science. few discussions, however, transcend the limitations of statistical and polemical accounts, and attempt to gain balance and insight by analysing and explaining collaboration in terms of more general theories in sociology or the sociology of science
Professionalization refers to a dynamic organizational process which led to a revolutionary restructuring of what had been a loose group of amateur and full-time scientists into a scientific community. "Professionalization" redefined how science was done, who did it, where it was done, who paid for it, what its practitioners wanted, and how they became scientists. That is, professionalization defines the rules, rights, and rites of access to the group, what holds the members of the group together, and what sets them apart from other individuals in the larger society. When viewed by the larger society as esoteric but useful, a body of knowledge and the rights to its exploitation may serve to make the specialized community autonomous - if, first, the specialized knowledge insures the profession's claims to societal support, and, second, the authority for deciding how this support will be distributed remains within the profession. istorically, the process of professionalization has simultaneously structured - and thus institutionalized - both societal support and internal mechanisms for its allocation and use Thus the community develops and presents to the larger society a unified and cohesive picture of its work and indicates the benefits that society can expect to derive from their association. Internally, the scientific community deals with certain problems arising from the distribution of social support by setting standards for performance and training; it also defines "scientifically valid" goals and problems - and their solutions. Internally, also, the encouragement of continued social support requires that some members of the scientific community act as representatives to the larger society. Such positions are usually filled by the "acknowledged winners" in the competition of research (in both revolutionary and normal times) or their intellectual progeny. Moreover, as the "acknowledged leaders" of the scientific community, they become the foci for the allocation of its own intellectual resources. This part of the scientific community can be seen as the elite To put it briefly, partially through the increased access it provides to sources of information, support, and facilities, collaboration increases both visibility to the elite and productivity. It allows the choice of eponymity or anonymity, depending on the quality of research. The division of labor makes it difficult for others within the profession to assess responsibility; the ensuing tende~lcy is to give credit, but to withhold blame. Meanwhile, collaborators derive benefits from their increased visibility: through increased access to the intellectual resources of the community
Put it briefly, partially through the increased access it provides to sources of information, support, and facilities, collaboration increases both visibility to the elite and productivity. It allows the choice of eponymity or anonymity, depending on the quality of research. The division of labor makes it difficult for others within the profession to assess responsibility; the ensuing tende~lcy is to give credit, but to withhold blame. Meanwhile, collaborators derive benefits from their increased visibility: through increased access to the intellectual resources of the community. In England, the Royal Society tradition was predominantly individualistic; at its meetings, members demonstrated experiments or showed curiosities to the assemblage. Its "histories" were not creatively research oriented, but Baeonian nventories of extant knowledge, compiled in committee fashion, as necessary preludes to research, or "experiments of light." In contrast, French and Italian academies carried on group investigations (e.g., "The Committee of the Whole") but such investigations lacked the freely chosen associations of current teamwork. The earliest collaborative paper found was published in 1665 and attributed to HOOKE, OLDENBURG, CASSINI, and BOYLE. Only six of the forty-seven collab. Corative papers produced before 1800 in the sample date from the seventeenth century. The remaining forty-one collaborative papers were written in the eighteenth century, and twenty-six of these (or 55% of the total sample and 65% of the ighteenth-century collaborative papers) were written between 1760 and 1800. It appears that teamwork even in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries exhibits a disparity between "experimental" and "'theoretical" research. work seems to center about routine matters of technique, of taking and recording observations, or about the observations themselves. Joint research reflecting attempts to use data in a theoretical context to advance knowledge, work of a conceptual kind, or even of an "experimental" as opposed to an observational kind is extremely rare. **In fact, the state's recognition of the importance of astronomy gave the field a quasiprofessional status: the state willingly supported research and gave astronomers a considerable say in the disposition of this support.
This is reflected in prototypes of the twentieth century IGY, the expeditions equipped and sent forth by every major scientific country for the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769) 6 Perhaps it is not too surprising that astronomy, of obvious practical interest to eighteenth century society, exhibits the ,strongest degree of collaborative endeavor. France fostered the world's leading scientific institutions of the time: the-i~cole Polytechnique, the i~eole Normale et Sup6rieure, the Mus6um d'Histoire Naturelle, and the Institut de France. The existence of such well-supported institutions encouraged the teaching of science as "valuable in itself, and not merely as auxiliary to some other professions.,, 2 a Though the French scientific community was more concerned with the training of an elite corps of researchers than with producing large numbers of scientists 29 (a practice which may partially account for the rapid decline of French science after 1840), the institutions mentioned above did provide employment for French scientists. The Royal Society, England's most prominent scientific institution, scarcely represented science; its scientist members were a minority in 1830. Not until mid-century did the rough balance between scientists and non-scientists begin to tip in favor of the former.** Further, it is especially noteworthy that despite occasional collaboratioia by German and Englis scientist, chains of collaborative linkages (subgroups of collaborators within the sample) are not generated by members of the English and German scientific communities during the first decades of the nineteenth century. Rather, the formation of such chains of collaborators depends on the French community's tendency toward collaboration.