OpenDocProject:LIS590TR/2010/09/23

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Readings

  • Price, D. J. de Solla. (1963). Little Science, Big Science. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Crane, D.(1972). Invisible Colleges: Diffusion of Knowledge in Scientific Communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Reading Response

In Crane’s Invisible College I found myself marveling at her ability to counter historical arguments and prodigiously cite related studies to support her own findings. I was particularly interested in the section Cross fertilization, which drew me back to the Bio Abstracts we read the first week of class. Mohrhardt seemed considerably worried about the proliferation of new branches and sub branches of science (biology) in that they created a wealth of publications that utilized jargon, and could not in turn influence their broader field. Consider his closing quote from Erwin Chargoff:

Each science protects itself from its neighbors by a cordon of slogans and catchwords ... New Journals are born every day by Caesarean section performed by skillful publishers; and as new disciplines are formed so are new and mutually unintelligible languages: a Towel' of Babel made of paper. Mohrhardt xx

At the time, I had written in the margin “not ‘up’ to topple over, but ‘out’ to infect” meaning the affect of specialty and sub discipline creation wasn’t so much a silo or tower of babble but a cacophony of voices, all of which could influence one another. Crane much more eloquently states:

A process of cross-fertilization occurs in which ideas from one field generate a period of rapid growth when applied to another field. Holton (1962) compares science to a tree whose limbs are constantly branching to create new fields and subfields of knowledge. He suggests that new fields are created in part by the discovery of linkage between old fields. p105

So, while Mohrhardt was concerned about the splitting and dividing of biology, Crane (and Holton) present a different scenario where a discipline or boundary of specialty is not divided and walled, but instead spreads continually outward like a rhizome. This is enabled by “…the existence of a common language in science that is similar to the metaphysical or orientation aspects of a paradigm.” P105

What I’d like to discuss is whether or not we accept this notion that sciences in general speak a “shared” language. If so, how does this affect our written communication / publishing and do we see meta-fields like informatics (especially the development of programming packages for computation) facilitating this, or creating new divisions?

Class Notes

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