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Proposal: Sociology Threads Should Have Their Own Subforum

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  1. Apr 29, 2008 #1
    In light of the many threads in this forum that discuss the sociolgy of physics, as opposed to the physics itself, I would like to propose that threads of the former type be separated from threads of the latter type, perhaps being moved to a different forum.

    PhysicsForums has a very admirable purpose---to facilitate the exchange of ideas (about physics) among the very knowledgeable and the layman alike. I have come here with questions before, as I know others have, and this is one of the main reasons that I like posting here so much. This forum distinguishes itself from the dozen or so other physics forums that I've come across because of this atmosphere.

    What is not useful, or helpful, or even pertinent to physics is threads lauding the impact of some book, or pointing out irrelevent data about which people cited which papers. In the end, this is not a discussion about physics at all, but about something else.

    As a concerned member of these fora, I would truly appreciate some moderator comment on this manner. Is there any reason why such off-topic threads should be allowed to continue? Should this forum be a fan club or a classroom?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2008 #2

    cristo

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    I'll bring this issue up with the other mentors.
     
  4. Apr 29, 2008 #3

    ZapperZ

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    If you see a thread that does fit into the forum, you should have reported it.

    You will notice that such "diversion" isn't tolerated in the other physics sub-forum here. So if anyone ever question why we are "strict" in adhering to the on-topic discussion, let what happened in this sub-forum be the prime example of what happens if we don't.

    Zz.
     
  5. Apr 29, 2008 #4

    Astronuc

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    Like the one entitled -

    Social Sciences Forum - https://www.physicsforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=85
    Sociology, Anthropology, Archaeology, Linguistics, Economics...

    OK - it's Sociology in general broad terms, but that's where discussion on sociology belong.

    Some aspects, such as discussion of personalities, may be better suited for GD.
     
  6. Apr 29, 2008 #5

    Moonbear

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    Precisely. We already have a forum for sociology discussions; please use it if that is something you wish to discuss.
     
  7. Apr 29, 2008 #6
    BenTheMan's point is both valid and important. A quick look at the front page in this sub-forum reveals forty threads, of which roughly ten are either explicitly concerned with sociologal matters in physics or which have degenerated into discussions of sociology after otherwise promising starts. This is the only dataset I have but I'd be surprised if the mean ratio of relevant to non-relevant posts differs appreciably.

    In short, approximately 25% of the posts on the first page are, at best, off-topic for this forum and, at worst, bandwagon-jumping junk. That's a pretty dubious S/N ratio for what is otherwise an interesting sub-forum.
     
  8. Apr 29, 2008 #7
    As far as I think I understand what is triggering this discussion, I must say I agree with BenTheMan, and share the same kind of annoyance feeling. Being myself an experimentalist, I am very happy to have PF (and people such as BenTheMan !) when I need theoretical guidance. It would be pretty unfortunate if a trend that also bother me freaked away this precious crowd.

    I however do not expect that this problem can easily been resolved.
     
  9. Apr 29, 2008 #8

    marcus

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    I think that information about current research directions, and published output,both in Quantum Gravity and stringy areas, are some of the most interesting kinds of information on these fields. This and data on citations are valuable in getting an overview of what is going on.

    I don't see it as a problem----the subforum is broad enough to address diverse interests.

    This is information provided by Arxiv.org, also SLAC-Stanford Spires, and by the Harvard abstract database. It is the kind of thing which is of considerable interest to science administrators, hiring committees, NSF advisory panels etc. I would be reluctant to dismiss it as "sociology" since it is part of an informed overview of the whole research animal. :-)

    Also I doubt that having some threads discussing these things would "freak" or scare away anyone who really wants to discuss some other aspects of physics.
     
  10. Apr 29, 2008 #9

    jal

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    This discussion should not be happening in this forum.
    Never-the-less.
    If you do not wish to have the inclusion of “amateurs” (all those not in your field of expertise) then you would use the traditional methods of communications. (journals, PM, e-mail, etc.)
    As a result, there would be no pubic forum. No students … no amateurs.

    What is irrelevant information to the “expert” may be the next important step in the learning curve of a student.

    If all that this forum wants is input from the authors of published papers then you would have almost no inputs. (historical observation)

    Even with the use of pen names, I have found that few people will venture into giving their opinions of any of the approaches presented by published authors. (D8 and Garrett Lisi being an exception)

    These forums are NOW an important learning tool for more than "experts".

    jal
     
  11. Apr 30, 2008 #10
    Perhaps you misunderstand my point:

    I love talking to amateurs about physics, and I don't know anyone who posts in fora such as these who DOESN'T. The point is, I want to talk about physics, not about whos book is selling how many copies. Nor do I believe that such discussions have any pretenses of actually discussing physics, which is why they don't belong in this forum.

    If you are assuming (?) that laypeople ONLY want to discuss some citation count or sales figure, then I believe you are mistaken.
     
  12. Apr 30, 2008 #11

    Fra

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    I personally am not very interested in sales or citation ratings, but I can understand Marcus point that if you consider science from the point of view of the scientific community (which I assume is pretty relevant if you are part of it), then scientists judge each other, and in that scientific process citations are I presume a relevant indicator. I think what might be called sociology of the scientific community is part of the effective scientific method, in particular if you are dependent on funding. The scheduling of funding, and all variables that affect that seems to be a fundamental part of the scientific process in this context. This sure is alot of sociology and politics even, but that seems to be the game, to play or not to play.

    Personally I think a focus on the scientific method is important. But I am not a player in the above game. I see the scientific method from the point of view of reasoning. The sociology and politics of science as described above is what make me chose not to play the game - I found another game that I rather play.

    But I like this forum, even though I have no interest in every thread. And I think discussing physics can probably be made from different views. And that's part of what I find stimulating here, to see how different people choose to formulate, and attack the open questions that unites us.

    From my experience with other forums, I think it's ideal to keep a certain "activity level" per subforum. Because if the activity drops the subforum kind of dies. People don't post in a subforum where it's one post a month, because they think noone will read it. At least from my point of view, the load in this subforum isn't that high. Wether it's high enough to motivate a split is possibly a matter of preference, but for me the activity level is good.

    /Fredirk
     
  13. Apr 30, 2008 #12
    The canonical example of a dead forum is sci.physics.strings, which died due to lack of interest, despite the explicit endorsement of 140 or so people, many of which are famous professors. The trick is not to keep unwanted posts out, but to perpetually keep attracting wanted posts.
     
  14. Apr 30, 2008 #13

    arivero

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    Indeed. The mayor problem is not the excess of sociometrics posts, but the lack of scientific post.

    It could be argued that sociometric posts should be better grouped. My feeling is that there is not an excess of posts, but an excess of threads. All the posts about a same kind of metric should be in the same thread, instead of starting a new one. We worked it very well three years ago for the numerology and the preon threads, in the other subforum. Software could help if the subject of the last post were visualized, besides the name of the last poster, and/or if the title of the thread could be edited by the original poster.

    As for how to attract good posts, nobody knows. It could be that the endemic problem in the internet of physics is lack of interest. It could be that the internet tools are not suited for public collaboration on research topics (note that the most sucessful internet tool, the wikipedia, explicitly forbids research). In turn, it could be because of ego issues: do your homework, read the f manual, that is a lamer question, etc... pretty internetty. It could be that science (not divulgation) is thought suitable only in private rooms between consenting adults. It could be that at the end the motivations of everyone to participate in an internet forum are not scientific but, ahem, social.
     
  15. Apr 30, 2008 #14

    ZapperZ

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    ... Or the people who regularly participates in this sub-forum can REPORT a post or thread that appears to be similar to the ones that already existed, so that a Mentor can merge them.

    Again, if you see something that shouldn't be here, or something that is only a repetition of a topic that has already been discussed, etc.. etc., then LET US KNOW! If this sub-forum means that much to you, then you also bears some responsibility in making sure that it runs smoothly.

    Zz.
     
  16. Apr 30, 2008 #15
    I agree with BenTheMan.

    I think there should be a "Sociology of Physics" subforum (I don't think the general "sociology" forum mentioned would be adequate, though). Or perhaps something like a "Professional Researchers and Research Lines" subforum, to discuss what they are doing, where, who went to work with who, cite number publications, things of that sort.

    PF is an excellent place to discuss and learn physics.
     
  17. Apr 30, 2008 #16

    arivero

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    Hmm but is it possible? I thought the merge was forcefully by hand (copy the posts from one thread to the other, delete the former).
     
  18. Apr 30, 2008 #17

    cristo

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    It's not a manual job; merging threads is quite a simple thing to do.
     
  19. Apr 30, 2008 #18

    Gokul43201

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    I too agree with Ben. I think a Sociology of Physics subforum somewhere might be a good idea, perhaps even under General Physics. That way there's a clear delineation by content between threads that talk about physics and those that talk about policy/sociology/psychology.
     
  20. Apr 30, 2008 #19

    nrqed

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    I have to agree with BenTheMan.

    For several reasons, some of them more subjective and personal than others.

    One reason that I deem important is that if I was an actual researcher in one of those fields (whether it's string, lqg or anything else) and would stop by the Beyond The Standard Model forum out of curiosity...and then see a bunch of threads on "how many books this or that author have been sold" and "who should hire whom" and "which of lqg or string theory is winning the war on citations" and etc.... I think that I would say to myself "oh, there is not much serious physics discussion going on here so it's not a good place to discuss physics or to explain stuff to people trying to learn" and I might not get back.

    One only has one chance of making a first time impression. I went to another forum recently and looked at posts in the string theory subsection and since the level of discussion was very basic, more at the layman level, I might not stop by again.
    And I would really hate it if we would lose first time knowledgeable visitors this way. Or if we would lose knowledgeable people that are around now. I want to learn string theory and lqg and I want those people around when I need help!

    And I may be wrong on this also, but I think that if these types of threads would appear constantly in some other subforums (quantum physics or relativity), they would get locked pretty quickly.

    It's one thing to say "Hey, this recent paper has led to many citations" and then to go on discussing the physics of the paper and trying to understand the ideas and maths. It's another thing to make a whol ethread just about number of citations, and who is doing what at what institution, and who is attending what conference and who is a brilliant rising star that deserve to be hired by whom and on and on.
     
  21. Apr 30, 2008 #20

    ZapperZ

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    Oh no you don't!!! :)

    If there's no problem with having a discussion on the Philosophy of science/physics in the Philosophy forum, why would there be an issue with discussing the Sociology of physics in the Social Science forum? What's so special about the latter that it needs a sub-forum all to itself? It is not as if the social science forum has huge amount of traffic that such discussion would be buried.

    I'm generally opposed to a sub-forum discussing ABOUT physics, in any of the physics main forums.

    Zz.
     
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