A changing definition for “science”?

20 years of progress: GIScience in 2010 (Goodchild)

I thought it was interesting how 2 out of the 3 participants Goodchild interviewed had an issue with the word “discovery” when asked about “the ten most important discoveries of GIScience to date” (7). On one hand Marc Armstrong replaces “discovery” with “transformations”, namely from one medium (paper) to another (computer) while Sara Fabrikant replaces the word with “rediscovery”; to her, GIScience is more about seeing the world from a new light. Further, these 2 participants both emphasize the idea that GIScience is the combination of many disciplines and its research is performed in “… a variety of scientific paradigms” (9). Both participants seem to value GIScience as a field that takes an amalgamation of knowledge we already know and applies it to spatial information to access new knowledge that we otherwise could not. They acknowledge GIScience not as a “new” science per se but as a new science born from previous fields of study.

At this point, Network Science springs to mind. Many things about the relatively recent development of network science are similar to that of GIScience. Network science, like GIScience, is interdisciplinary; it draws from and has relevance to many fields. Although scholars have studied networks long ago, they had few unifying theories to show to it, which motivated the formation of a Network Science. The National Research Council writes:

“Despite the tremendous variety of complex networks in the natural, physical, and social worlds, little is known scientifically about the common rules that underlie all networks. This is even truer for interacting networks. Ideas put forth by scientists, technologists, and researchers in a wide variety of fields have been coalescing over the past decade, creating a new field of thinking—the science of networks…
Does a science of networks exist? Opinions differ” (p. 7).

Perhaps these developments in Network and GI Science support the idea mentioned by Wright et al. of a change in the understanding of what constitute as “science” in the modern world.

National Research Council. (2005). Network Science. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2005.


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One Response to “A changing definition for “science”?”

  1. climateNYC says:

    The idea that it’s a rediscovery has resonance with me. Although I see GIScience as both a tool and a science, in some regards it functions in much the same ways and on the same principles as older aspects of mapping – as Renee pointed out in her last lecture with Polynesian maps. So, calling it a rediscovery rather than a discovery certainly makes sense.