SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Social sciences

221

Neuroscience is increasingly being called upon to address issues within the humanities. We discuss challenges that arise, relating to art and beauty, and provide ideas for a way forward.

Concepts: Literature, Social sciences, Music, Humanities, Aesthetics

215

As social scientists have investigated the political and social factors influencing public opinion in science-related policy debates, there has been growing interest in the implications of this research for public communication and outreach. Given the level of political polarization in the United States, much of the focus has been on partisan differences in public opinion, the strategies employed by political leaders and advocates that promote those differences, and the counter-strategies for overcoming them. Yet this focus on partisan differences tends to overlook the processes by which core beliefs about science and society impact public opinion and how these schema are often activated by specific frames of reference embedded in media coverage and popular discourse. In this study, analyzing cross-sectional, nationally representative survey data collected between 2002 and 2010, we investigate the relative influence of political partisanship and science-related schema on Americans' support for embryonic stem cell research. In comparison to the influence of partisan identity, our findings suggest that generalized beliefs about science and society were more chronically accessible, less volatile in relation to media attention and focusing events, and an overall stronger influence on public opinion. Classifying respondents into four unique audience groups based on their beliefs about science and society, we additionally find that individuals within each of these groups split relatively evenly by partisanship but differ on other important dimensions. The implications for public engagement and future research on controversies related to biomedical science are discussed.

Concepts: Stem cell, Sociology, Science, Embryonic stem cell, Medical research, Social sciences, Political philosophy, Society

211

Evidence-based policy ensures that the best interventions are effectively implemented. Integrating rigorous, relevant science into policy is therefore essential. Barriers include the evidence not being there; lack of demand by policymakers; academics not producing rigorous, relevant papers within the timeframe of the policy cycle. This piece addresses the last problem. Academics underestimate the speed of the policy process, and publish excellent papers after a policy decision rather than good ones before it. To be useful in policy, papers must be at least as rigorous about reporting their methods as for other academic uses. Papers which are as simple as possible (but no simpler) are most likely to be taken up in policy. Most policy questions have many scientific questions, from different disciplines, within them. The accurate synthesis of existing information is the most important single offering by academics to the policy process. Since policymakers are making economic decisions, economic analysis is central, as are the qualitative social sciences. Models should, wherever possible, allow policymakers to vary assumptions. Objective, rigorous, original studies from multiple disciplines relevant to a policy question need to be synthesized before being incorporated into policy.

Concepts: Economics, Science, Decision theory, Policy, Implementation, Social sciences, Political science, Scholarly method

211

The role of breakfast as an essential part of an healthy diet has been only recently promoted even if breakfast practices were known since the Middle Age. The growing scientific evidences on this topic are extremely sector-based nevertheless breakfast could be regarded from different point of views and from different expertises. This approach, that take into account history, sociology, anthropology, medicine, psychology and pedagogy, is useful to better understand the value of this meal in our culture. The aim of this paper was to analyse breakfast-related issues based on a multidisciplinary approach with input by specialists from different fields of learning.

Concepts: Psychology, Nutrition, Middle Ages, Sociology, Culture, Philosophy, Anthropology, Social sciences

178

Weaving the visual arts into a science curriculum can both help develop scientific imagination and engage non-scientists.

Concepts: Social sciences, Higher education, Art, Aesthetics

178

The birth and decline of disciplines are critical to science and society. How do scientific disciplines emerge? No quantitative model to date allows us to validate competing theories on the different roles of endogenous processes, such as social collaborations, and exogenous events, such as scientific discoveries. Here we propose an agent-based model in which the evolution of disciplines is guided mainly by social interactions among agents representing scientists. Disciplines emerge from splitting and merging of social communities in a collaboration network. We find that this social model can account for a number of stylized facts about the relationships between disciplines, scholars, and publications. These results provide strong quantitative support for the key role of social interactions in shaping the dynamics of science. While several “science of science” theories exist, this is the first account for the emergence of disciplines that is validated on the basis of empirical data.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Sociology, Science, Empirical, Theory, Social sciences, Society

176

How to determine the community structure of complex networks is an open question. It is critical to establish the best strategies for community detection in networks of unknown structure. Here, using standard synthetic benchmarks, we show that none of the algorithms hitherto developed for community structure characterization perform optimally. Significantly, evaluating the results according to their modularity, the most popular measure of the quality of a partition, systematically provides mistaken solutions. However, a novel quality function, called Surprise, can be used to elucidate which is the optimal division into communities. Consequently, we show that the best strategy to find the community structure of all the networks examined involves choosing among the solutions provided by multiple algorithms the one with the highest Surprise value. We conclude that Surprise maximization precisely reveals the community structure of complex networks.

Concepts: Mathematics, Social sciences, 2006 albums, Strategy, Community, Complex network, Open problem, Community structure

176

Modern information and communication technologies, especially the Internet, have diminished the role of spatial distances and territorial boundaries on the access and transmissibility of information. This has enabled scientists for closer collaboration and internationalization. Nevertheless, geography remains an important factor affecting the dynamics of science. Here we present a systematic analysis of citation and collaboration networks between cities and countries, by assigning papers to the geographic locations of their authors' affiliations. The citation flows as well as the collaboration strengths between cities decrease with the distance between them and follow gravity laws. In addition, the total research impact of a country grows linearly with the amount of national funding for research & development. However, the average impact reveals a peculiar threshold effect: the scientific output of a country may reach an impact larger than the world average only if the country invests more than about 100,000 USD per researcher annually.

Concepts: Time, Earth, Geography, Science, Research, Social sciences, Internet, Human geography

171

Scientists must communicate about science with public audiences to promote an understanding of complex issues that we face in our technologically advanced society. Some scientists may be concerned about a social stigma or “Sagan effect” associated with participating in public communication. Recent research in the social sciences indicates that public communication by scientists is not a niche activity but is widely done and can be beneficial to a scientist’s career. There are a variety of approaches that scientists can take to become active in science communication.

Concepts: Mathematics, Sociology, Science, Social sciences, Technology, Society, Scientist, Pseudoscience

157

BACKGROUND: Previous work has noted that science stands as an ideological force insofar as the answers it offers to a variety of fundamental questions and concerns; as such, those who pursue scientific inquiry have been shown to be concerned with the moral and social ramifications of their scientific endeavors. No studies to date have directly investigated the links between exposure to science and moral or prosocial behaviors. METHODOLOGYPRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Across four studies, both naturalistic measures of science exposure and experimental primes of science led to increased adherence to moral norms and more morally normative behaviors across domains. Study 1 (n = 36) tested the natural correlation between exposure to science and likelihood of enforcing moral norms. Studies 2 (n = 49), 3 (n = 52), and 4 (n = 43) manipulated thoughts about science and examined the causal impact of such thoughts on imagined and actual moral behavior. Across studies, thinking about science had a moralizing effect on a broad array of domains, including interpersonal violations (Studies 1, 2), prosocial intentions (Study 3), and economic exploitation (Study 4). CONCLUSIONSSIGNIFICANCE: These studies demonstrated the morally normative effects of lay notions of science. Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior. These studies are the first of their kind to systematically and empirically test the relationship between science and morality. The present findings speak to this question and elucidate the value-laden outcomes of the notion of science.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Human, Science, Religion, Social sciences, Nature, Morality