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Evolution in natural sciences vs. drift in social science

A new journal article on PLOS evaluates the use of keywords in natural and social sciences using techniques developed to characterize evolution in organisms. The basic result is that word usage in natural sciences appears to be systematic and directional while social sciences appear to exhibit characteristics of genetic drift, as far as keyword use are concerned. Further research will need to be conducted in order to strengthen these results.

Abstract:
The evolution of vocabulary in academic publishing is characterized via keyword frequencies recorded in the ISI Web of Science citations database. In four distinct case-studies, evolutionary analysis of keyword frequency change through time is compared to a model of random copying used as the null hypothesis, such that selection may be identified against it. The case studies from the physical sciences indicate greater selection in keyword choice than in the social sciences. Similar evolutionary analyses can be applied to a wide range of phenomena; wherever the popularity of multiple items through time has been recorded, as with web searches, or sales of popular music and books, for example.

Full Article: http://tinyurl.com/29ulsco

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