Price, D. J. d. S. (1963). Little Science, Big Science. New York, Columbia University Press.

The argument starts with the proposition that scientific publications were increasing at the time of writing. More papers were being published, more journals being created and more science being accomplished than ever before. Since in science, if you don't discover it someone else will, this also created a hugely competitive environment where scientists vied with each other to show they had been the primary discoverer.

In this environment, there are two main problems:

  • arranging for the highest level of people to interact in manageable numbers
  • how does one manage the large body of average scientists and appliers so that it keeps pace with the leaders.

    This relates in some ways to the information glut problems mentioned in Digital Ages. Scientists cannot interact with more than about 100 people, so fields that grow beyond that size splinter into specializations so that members can more efficiently arrange their limited attention. This specialization is one way to manage the two questions mentioned above.

    Another way is to form "invisible colleges" of people who have a common identity that bridges different institutions. These college members "ride the circuit", moving from colleague to colleague, shaping group identity as the cross-pollinization occurs. This is typically how the elite scientists are organized.

    The third way people deal with this overload, according to the author, is with an increased prevalence to co-author papers. Co-authoring is shown to have risen dramatically in the time of publication, and the author heralds this as a way to organize the rank and file of scientists. "There is a continuous movement toward an increase in the productivity of the most prolific authors and an increase in numbers of those minimally prolific... The most prolific people increase their productivities by being the group leaders of teams that can accomplish more than they could singly.

    clampe's Questions:
    What are the implications of this paper for SI's work with collaboratories?
    This paper depends alot of some basic assumptions about motivation in scientific publication. Do you buy those assumptions?
    How has the picture changed in the past thirty years?
    In what ways does computer mediated communication affect the creation and operation of invisible colleges?

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