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SOCNET  February 2005

SOCNET February 2005

Subject:

On the Shoulders of Giants

From:

"Scott, John" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scott, John

Date:

Sun, 13 Feb 2005 13:44:32 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (67 lines)

*****  To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org  *****

The contributions to the 'physics and sociology' debate have, as with
all the discussions on SOCNET, raised many interesting and important
issues. Many contributors have, quite rightly, focused on issues of
citation and priority, and how these affect issues of academic justice,
and personal career chances. One contributor, however, made the
important point that 'advancing the science' is the crucial matter, not
personal status. The sociology of science shows that these issues cannot
be separated, but it is certainly true that 'advancing the science'
should be our fundamental concern. In this light, perhaps I can raise
one crucial consequence of the failure to undertake basic literature
surveys in a research area?
 
The failure to undertake a proper literature search leads researchers to
waste time that could be put to more productive use in advancing the
science. As is well-known, those who stand on the shoulders of giants
are able to see further. Those who do not bother to search out the work
of the giants are likely to spend a great deal of time reinventing
things already known and so delaying the point at which they or others
can see further. This seems to me to be the fundamental point: build on
what is already known rather than waste time rediscovering it. It is in
the individual researcher's self-interest to do the search, and it
contributes to advancing the science.
 
Some contributors have suggested that such counsel may be unrealistic in
an age of highly specialised scientific research, as the facilities are
not available to allow it. One contributor, for example, asked whether
easily searchable cross-discipline databases that cover both physics and
sociology exist. Well, yes they do: they are called libraries, and their
stock is accessible by catalogue and by browsing the shelves. People who
write books and contribute to journals should have the necessary skills
to use a library, and any decent academic library makes basic literature
searches very easy. I have checked the library catalogue at the
university of the leading physicist that I referred to in my original
posting and that library contains a run of the journal Social Networks
as well as the key texts and sources produced by Barry Wellman, Stan
Wasserman and Katie Faust, and others. 
 
By all means let's try to forget artificial disciplinary boundaries and
join together to advance the science of social networks, recognising the
potential that all specialists have for contributing to this. But let's
also remember the basic scholarly skills that make it possible for us to
advance the science and for all of us to try stand on the shoulders of
giants.
 
John

--------------------------------------------------------

Professor John Scott
Department of Sociology,
University of Essex,
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

01206-872640
Web site: http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~scottj/
<blocked::http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~scottj/> 

 

_____________________________________________________________________
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