Checking out the Science of Science

An interesting article published in Science Magazine looks at the Science of Science (SciSci).  The promise is that when Science studies itself through an iterative process, it will better itself, thus better the world.  

Science as a subject for itself is fair enough, although it does raise the question of what SciSci looks at when it looks at Science.  One plausible answer is demonstrably quantifiable Science artifacts — a fancy way of saying looking at wiring under the board of Science for stuff we can measure.  

The article explains Science as “a complex, self-organizing, and evolving network of scholars, projects, papers, and ideas,” which is odd as the description is missing the Scientific Method.  However, the framing of Science in this manner is vital as it relates to the method of examination used in the article. In this view, Science is primarily an iterative social process of knowledge production that establishes itself in complex networks of artifacts.  These artifacts, like books and articles, mean that Science is intertextual, it is an idea rooted in a system of texts. However, there seem to be various other artifacts of Science to examine quantitatively too, as an example, who pays for the study, what came of the research, partnerships, scientist moving around institutions, and citations.  SciSci’s examination of these all-inclusive elements delineates some of the backings of Science as a forward-moving social process.

The big idea of SciSci, seemingly, is that a greater understanding of what supports Science leads ultimately to a healthier world.  That Science can give us better Science ultimately means enabling us to do better things. A rather rosy picture of Science that seems to forget all of the bad stuff but, still, nonetheless reasonably accurate. 

The article goes on about problem selection, career projections, collaborations, and citation analysis, which are telltale signs of the transdisciplinary.  SciSci spans scientometrics, innovation studies, econometrics, statistics, “network science approaches, machine-learning algorithms, mathematical analysis, and computer simulation, including agent-based modeling.”  Combined, these disciplines form a net made of quantitative interlocking methodologies that can examine the underlying structure of Science, so they say. 

Early in the article, an example of the type of SciSci findings is given, “finding that small teams tend to disrupt Science and technology with new ideas drawing on older and less prevalent ones. In contrast, large teams tend to develop modern, fashionable ideas, obtaining high, but often short-lived, impact.”  So the results of the SciSci method may allow for strategies to stimulate scientific development and in turn, make the world a better place. Perhaps.


Librarians And Your Odd Questions

As far as I am aware, the public reference librarian is the only job where anyone can ask nearly any conceivable question and get a fair answer. That is an odd place to hold in society.

Yet, there is something of comfort knowing that there is someone designated to answer the questions of the public. A universal need for information necessitated the position, the sheer division of labor in society required a person to answer questions in general. And that lucky person is the librarian.

Librarians of all domains get asked odd questions. By odd I mean a mixture of quirky and tricky to answer that very well might catch the librarian off guard. These are the best questions for some librarians as they require deep dives into unknown information rabbit holes. Whole new worlds can be explored while chasing down an answer. It can be a hell of a ride.

There are limitations to odd questions, for example, librarians cannot locate your lost keys (which you just had in your hands) or tell you where the cat is hiding. However, if you lost your keys in the library, they might be in the lost and found, and there might be books on cat behavior. Librarians also don’t give medical or legal advice but alternatively, offer materials on medicine and law. Deep questions like the meaning of life will be directed to works of philosophy and theology. The goal is never to avoid the odd question, just help the patron along in their quest.

So ask your librarian odd questions, explore the limits of your curiosity. Life can be so fascinating when unusual thoughts are explored. And don’t feel weird about it, the librarian is on your side.

The future belongs to the curious, The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it and turn it inside out

Handy List of Some Library Journal Websites

Keeping track of library literature can be taxing. Here is a list of some library journals websites to make matters easier.

American Archivist


Cataloging & Classification Quarterly

The Charleston Advisor

Children and Libraries

College & Research Libraries

Communications in Information Literacy

Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

In the Library with the Lead Pipe

Internet Research (journal)

Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship

Italian Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science

Journal of Academic Librarianship

Journal of Documentation

Journal of Library Administration

The Library Quarterly

Library Review (journal)

Reference and User Services Quarterly