***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org ***** In all the recent discussions about the relationship between physics and sociology in the study of social networks, the fundamental issue seems to have been lost sight of. The important issue is not whether the two disciplines can or should cooperate. That is essential and it happens frequently. Contributors to the discussion have pointed out many fruitful and important cases, and the history of sociology is full of many others. The big problem arises when academics from one discipline move into the area of another discipline without trying to discover what work has already been done by its practitioners. At best they reinvent the wheel. At worst they antagonise people with their intellectual arrogance. This is what has happened with much of the recent work on small worlds: physicists have argued that their methods and theories can illuminate social networks but have failed to realise that a whole community of sociological network researchers already exists and has done exactly the kind of work that they are pointing to. Their books claim to have made startling discoveries about the social world and advocate the development of new research programmes on these topics. Their reviewers take these claims at face value and so a reputation for intellectual novelty is built up. It is surely a basic failure of normal scholarly research procedures that these books can be written and published without the author undertaking any proper literature search. The author of one recent book expounding the novelty of the 'power law' does not seem to realise that sociological work over many years has documented the existence of this kind of distribution in many real social networks. None of this is cited. Its author does not seem to have discovered the existence of journals on social networks, nor does he seem to realise that INSNA exists and that the cover design of its newsletter shows a network with a power law structure. This same book is based around the author's research into internet search engines, but it doesn't seem as if he has ever typed the words 'social networks' into Google or any other search engine. If I were to come up with the idea that familiar theories from sociology could illuminate problems in physics, the first thing I would do would be a literature search to see if anybody, in physics or elsewhere, had already worked on the issue. Physicists who followed the same strategy when they wished to contribute something to social analysis, might find that they would be welcomed more warmly by their social science colleagues. ________________________________ Professor John Scott Department of Sociology, University of Essex Colchester CO4 3SQ Telephone: 01206-872640 Web site: <http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~scottj> _____________________________________________________________________ SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social network researchers (http://www.insna.org). To unsubscribe, send an email message to [log in to unmask] containing the line UNSUBSCRIBE SOCNET in the body of the message.