Have you done historical bibliometric analysis of a scientific field or topic area and found that there is a massive increase in research articles after 1990? Are you using ISI’s Web of Science and searching by topic or keyword? If so, don’t make the same mistake I did: these results aren’t because of some sea change or paradigm shift, but rather result from a poorly-documented shift in how ISI began indexing articles after 1990.
Here are the slides from a paper I presented at the Science and Technology in Society Conference, hosted by the AAAS this past weekend. I won an award for top paper in my section for it – so I’m pretty happy about it. The full paper is not up because it is a Frankenstein assemblage from my thesis, which I’ll be finishing up in less than a month.
When I took my first Physics class as a High School student, my rather inept lab team developed a catchphrase that was frequently invoked when our experiments resulted in data that wildly contradicted the accepted scientific theory: “Mr. Evans,” we would say to our teacher in a mockingly-apologetic tone, “We broke Physics.” Every time without fail, he would dash our hopes by showing us that we had not yet succeeded in breaking his prized subject; indeed, it we poor experimentalists who were broken and must be repaired. This had the immediate effect of us manipulating the experiment to achieve the predicted result, instead of the traditionally-understood method of using experimentation to arrive at a theory. However, this manipulation was simply for the grade; raised on stories of intrepid and independent scientists, we held out for the day when we would break that monolithic institution by discovering an anomaly that would give us agency over the theories and equations instead of the other way around. Putting aside any Friereian critiques of the student/teacher pedagogic model, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions provides an interesting explanation for this story.