Question: studies on the size of scientific specialties?

Heinrich C. Kuhn hck at LRZ.UNI-MUENCHEN.DE
Mon Feb 23 04:17:10 EST 2004

Steven A. Morris wrote:
> Does anyone out there know of any studies that try to measure the size of
> "scientific specialties" in terms of either the number of members or the
> number of papers?    Kuhn says something like "about 100 members, sometimes
> considerably less".  [...]

If I understand this correctly: this comes down to Th. S. Kuhn's
(no relative of mine) concept of "scientific communities".
I admit that this has been a useful concept to clarify some
problems. However: I doubt whether it's useful for description
of scholarly reality.
1.   I'm no scientist but an intellectual historian and historian
     of philosophy: my doubts may be without foundation when it
     comes to sciences.
2.   Most of the material that I'm interested in stems from or
     deals with the years 1348 to 1648: things may be different
     for the 20th and 21st centuries.
Here are my doubts and their reasons:
1.    Most scholars I know (and this holds true both for the
      14th to 17th cent. and the 21st. cent.) do belong to
      more than one "scientific community", do deal with more than
      one "specialty" in the Th. S. Kuhnian sense.
2.    One reads the papers of other scholars and meets other
      scholars at conferences if there is an overlap of
      common interests. There is no need for an identity
      of interests. And these overlaps go into many
      directions: in my perception you get a continuous
      quilt of research interests: A overlaps with B and C,
      C with D and E, E with F and G, although A and G
      may have little or nothing in common.
3.    Interests of any person often are in continuous develop-
      ment: and thus the overlaps of that person's interests
      with other persons' interests will change and there
      will be discontinuity in the "memberships" in
      "scientific specialties" even if there is continuity
      in the original interests.
4.    Scholarly work is to fluid to be containable in a
      card box. And scholarly work is done by scholars,
      real living humans, whose networking often cannot
      be studied adequately without taking into account
      their personal biographies.

Citation relationships are very useful to examine if you want
to know what is going on or what was going on, but in my
experience they may often show, that there are no precise
boundaries between fields of research and groups of

   Hoping that these remarks will not be judged to be
exceedingly heretical, and with best regards

Heinrich C. Kuhn

|    Dr. Heinrich C. Kuhn
|    Seminar fuer Geistesgeschichte der Renaissance
|    Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen
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