Modeling the content of science: The case of HIV/AIDS research, 1990-2008

Ryan Light, University of Oregon - Dept of Sociology
The story of scientific change is typically told in one of two ways: a historical focus on the great scientists or a more sociological approach that focuses on the networks of production through co-authorship or credit through co-citation. The former often introduces the content of science attributable to only a handful of practitioners, while the latter casts a wider social net at the expense of content. In this paper we offer a different tactic by examining structural change in the content of a HIV/AIDS research. Using data from two core journals, we build topic models developed by computational scientists for the organization of large sets of unstructured data. Initial findings delineate the maturation of HIV/AIDS research following the deployment and analysis of more successful treatment regimens, but with lower interdisciplinarity than anticipated given the diversity of the HIV/AIDS field. We conclude by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of computational sociology or the attempt to make sociological sense out of unstructured text data.
April, 11 2011 | 12:30 - 14:00 | 329 Soc/Psych, Duke University

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