Simulations suggest that social and natural sciences differ in their research strategies adapted to work for different knowledge landscapes
Do different field of knowledge require different research strategies? A numerical model exploring different virtual knowledge landscapes, revealed different optimal search strategies. Trend following is maximized when the popularity of new discoveries determine the number of individuals researching it. This strategy works best when many researchers explore few large areas of knowledge. In contrast, individuals or small groups of researchers are better in discovering small bits of information in dispersed knowledge landscapes. The best technique for all situations simulated, is to adjust the number of researchers needed to explore a knowledge cluster according to the opportunities and the level of crowding in that cluster. Bibliometric data of scientific publications showed a continuous bipolar distribution of these strategies, ranging from natural sciences, with highly cited publications in journals containing a large number of articles, to the social sciences, with rarely cited publications in journals containing a small number of articles. The natural science seem to adapt their research strategies to landscapes with large knowledge clusters, whereas social sciences seem to have adapted to search in landscapes with many small knowledge clusters. The work shows that quantitative measures estimating differences between social and natural sciences are feasible.Coming out in PLoS in the next few weeks.
More details and paper at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1403.5107