what does science look like?


In this really cool article by Bollen et al. in PLoS ONE we get a map of the connections between disciplines by seeing how folks click through journals. As they put it:

Over the course of 2007 and 2008, we collected nearly 1 billion user interactions recorded by the scholarly web portals of some of the most significant publishers, aggregators and institutional consortia. The resulting reference data set covers a significant part of world-wide use of scholarly web portals in 2006, and provides a balanced coverage of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. A journal clickstream model, i.e. a first-order Markov chain, was extracted from the sequences of user interactions in the logs. The clickstream model was validated by comparing it to the Getty Research Institute’s Architecture and Art Thesaurus. The resulting model was visualized as a journal network that outlines the relationships between various scientific domains and clarifies the connection of the social sciences and humanities to the natural sciences.

I’m surprised how far sociology is from social work. But maybe that’s just because people often think I’m a social worker when I say I’m a sociologist. The article is cool, and the map is great.

12 thoughts on “what does science look like?”

  1. I am surprised that sociology isn’t closer to social psychology. This is a really neat way to visualize the relationships between the sciences. Thanks for the pointer Shamus.


  2. hmmm… still works for me. not sure. as a file it’s huge. so maybe it’s just slow to load. i’m slow on figuring out how to post media on wordpress. so perhaps i did something wrong. it’s pretty clear over on orgtheory. so if you can’t see it here, see it there…


  3. Brayden @1 is “surprised that sociology isn’t closer to social psychology.” I’m surprised that social psych is so far away from psychology, which appears to be closer to anthropology. Maybe if there were a different way to model the space (three diminesions?) it would look different. I wish there were some interactive flash function that would allow you to highlight the dots and lines for some smaller subset of selected disciplines.


  4. One of the things I find interesting is that if you’d ask me how a discipline becomes powerful, I would have hypothesized that it happens by being at the center of other, related disciplines. You draw on lots of ideas and lots of folks draw from you. But this shows that not to be so true. I know it’s not THAT simplistic. But still. It seems that powerful disciplines can practice a logic of isolationism. Which makes sense when I think about actual cases (Economics) but not when I think on a more general level.

    Which brings me to a second point: it would be REALLY cool to see these networks through time. Now obviously you couldn’t do that with click-throughs. But you could with reference patterns. Then you could look at what happens as areas become more or less powerful. How do they transition? Moody does stuff like this in the social sciences, no (not with the temporal dimension, I don’t believe)? Anyone else know of that kind of work? Marion Fourcade does it with the economics profession. But that’s the qualitative story. I’d love to see it coupled with this kind of network story.


  5. on the Moody and Social Sciences question – he and Ryan Light did do *some* of the through time patterns (within sociology alone) in:
    Moody, James and Ryan Light. 2006. “A View from Above: The Evolving Sociological Landscape.” The American Sociologist 37:67-86.

    But some of these more general patterns through time? Loet Leydesdorff’s work has done some of this through Co-citation networks..and there are various other versions that are smaller-scale (e.g., a few closely-linked disciplines) but i am not aware of anything doing a similar “full mapping” to this through time.

    Though it may simply be escaping my memory at the moment.


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