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, 55 (1), 75-84

The Hard Sciences and the Soft: Some Sociological Observations

The Hard Sciences and the Soft: Some Sociological Observations

N W Storer. Bull Med Libr Assoc.


The paper focuses on the implications of the terms "hard" and "soft" as they are used to characterize different branches of science; this is one approach to understanding some of the relations between knowledge and social organization. Given the importance to scientists of having their work evaluated accurately, it can be seen that the more rigorously a body of knowledge is organized, the more readily professional recognition can be appropriately assigned. The degree of rigor seems directly related to the extent to which mathematics is used in a science, and it is this that makes a science "hard." Data are presented in support of the hypothesis that "harder" sciences are characterized by more impersonality in their members' relationships where impersonality is indexed by the frequency that only first initials are used in footnotes. Finally, some parallels between the economic and the scientific sectors of society are suggested, viewing money and professional recognition as "generalized media" and noting certain analogies in science to inflation and deflation in the economic system. Implications for the obsolescence of parts of the literature of science are discussed, and the relevance of this analysis to Kuhn's work on scientific revolutions is briefly noted.

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