Uncovering the patterns and morphologies of science evolution — The tribulations of Scientific Fields

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Date(s) - 23/07/2017 - 29/07/2017
12:00 am

Praia Vermelha campus

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Uncovering the patterns and morphologies of science evolution — The tribulations of Scientific Fields

Invited talk at Visualization as a historiographic tool – 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technolog,  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 23 to 29 July 2017,

Abstract :

This talk will portray automated methods for the bottom-up reconstruction of the cognitive evolution of science, based on the large-scale analysis of digital libraries, and modelled as lineage relationships between scientific fields.

These lineage relationships constitute a level of observation of science, where its dynamical and multi-scale structures can be characterized both quantitatively and morphologically. I refer to these dynamic structures as phylomemetic networks or phylomemies, by analogy with biological evolution.

I will show that phylomemies exhibit strong regularities, with clearly identifiable phylomemetic patterns. For example,  some structural properties of the scientific fields – in particular their density -, which are defined independently of the phylomemy reconstruction, are clearly correlated with their status and their fate in the phylomemy (like their age or their short term survival).

The branches of phylomemy can be qualified from the point of view of their morphology, each domain of science having a very specific signature that reflects the main steps and timing of its development. Using few examples that will compare the morphology of phylomemetic branches to the history of the associated field written by its protagonists, we will raise the question of the degree of retrodictability of the phylomemy reconstruction method and how it can be used by historians for heuristic or descriptive purposes.

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