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Christina's LIS Rant
Monday, December 18, 2006
  Social constructivist theory of...science?
Earlier, I was trying to wrap my arms around social constructionist theory in communications (without sufficient background or time to do the research...) so I know a tiny bit about that.

Then, I borrowed the new 2007 ARIST (which {got} its own post) and I was flipping through and caught a discussion in the article on citation analysis by Nicolaisen on the "social constructivist theory of citing." He {reports that social constructivists, elsewhere labeled scientific constructivists, such as Barry Barnes, David Bloor, Michel Callon, Harry Collins, Karin Knorr Cetina, Bruno Latour, and Steve Woolgar,}... "believe that scientific closure is the outcome of a negotiation process in which one party convinces the other by mere persuasion." -- this seems a bit strong to me but I know some of the application here from my reading of Knorr-Cetina, K. (1999). Epistemic cultures: How the sciences make knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press -- anyway, scientists cite to persuade others of their claims and to gain crediblity by association. Hm. Well...

So there I was, not working on my conference paper, and read Peter Murray-Rust's reprinting of the ALPSP statement which says in part: "journal articles provide one ‘view’ of the significance and interpretation of that data – and conference presentations and informal exchanges may provide other ‘views’ – but data itself is an increasingly important community resource."

This SSS stuff is quite interesting actually, because that statement from ALPSP might have slipped past me without some sort of consciousness raising. I totally agree with it, but it kind of keeps me from thinking they're evil if they're going to be so reasonable about it (actually the society publishers have never been evil, well, except for the nasty one that has to do with automotive technologies and is in Warrendale, PA {ok, and I've been corrected to say that it's not the society that is evil, just their policies})

These are tied together because reports (papers, articles) are representations of how the scientists make meaning of their observations. When papers are presented at conferences the audience, reviewers, and author together construct meaning through questions and discussion. Likewise, the authors' citation activity is how they negotiate and place the work in the scientific discourse.

Readers are saying, "like, well, duh" but I'm slowing learning *something*

Update 12/20/2006: Dr. Nicolaisen contacted me to clarify the quotes I pulled out of the context of the greater article. I've tried to correct this within the {} above, but it may just have created an un-readable run-on sentence. Please do pick up ARIST and read the original chapter if you are at all interested.
 
Comments:
What the scientist selectively does not make public is also important when convincing people. Science is usually a lot messier than it appears in journal articles.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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