Signs of the singularity

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I've recently learned that there's a field called "Science of Science Policy", parsed as [Science of [Science Policy]] rather than [[Science of Science] Policy]. The Wikipedia article on the subject says that

The science of science policy (SoSP) is an emerging interdisciplinary research area that seeks to develop theoretical and empirical models of the scientific enterprise. This scientific basis can be used to help government, and society in general, make better R&D management decisions by establishing a scientifically rigorous, quantitative basis from which policy makers and researchers may assess the impacts of the Nation’s scientific and engineering enterprise, improve their understanding of its dynamics, and assess the likely outcomes. Examples of research in the science of science policy include models to understand the production of science, qualitative and quantitative methods to estimate the impact of science, and processes for choosing from alternative science portfolios.

The same article also observes that

The federal government of the United States has long been a supporter of SoSP.

In other words, the federal government has a Science of Science Policy policy.

And this policy, like other policies, can change over time — John Marburger, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy under President George W. Bush, was strongly in favor of SoSP, but others might have different views. This variation in Science of Science Policy policy is sure to have impacts on the enterprise of science and its social effects. So we will surely need to found a discipline to study these impacts: the Science of Science of Science Policy Policy.



34 Comments

  1. Protagoras said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 10:10 am

    Wouldn't the establishment of such a discipline involve the implementation of a science of science of science policy policy policy?

  2. bks said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    Not to mention the Science of Political Science of Science Policy Politics Policy.

    –bks

  3. Chris Waigl said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    Interestingly, the singularity appears to be arriving in English first. I became curious how german policy research jargon handles this sub-field of Verwaltungswissenschaften (policy research or, if you will, science of policy) and found that even though there are Verwaltungswissenschaftler (policy researchers) specializing in Wissenschaftsverwaltung (science policy), there are no Google hits at all for Wissenschaftsverwaltungswissenschaft/-en/ler.

  4. Mr Fnortner said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 11:47 am

    Department of redundancy department etc….

  5. Henning Makholm said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

    To me the description sounds more like a subdiscipline of sociology that calls itself "interdisciplinary" solely because that magic word opens up a lot of funding avenues that are not available to boring old tunnel-visioned single-discipline research.

    [(myl) The idea of studying the past effects of science policy, and trying to predict future effects of alternative policies, seems to me like a plausible idea whose content is not otherwise covered. If this view is correct, then your approach to Science of Science Policy policy -- treating SoSP as a content-free funding gambit -- would be a deleterious one.]

  6. CD said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    Recursive nesting can *itself* be an object of study, as in this post.

  7. peter said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    On three occasions in one week in 1975, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired a programme in which a presenter claimed that Michelangelo's David was "famous for being famous." (One of the presenters was the artist and critic Robert Hughes, and another was journalist and talking head Clive James. I do not recall the third person.) Clearly, Michelangelo's David was famous for being famous for being famous.

  8. Steve said,

    February 16, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    The post reminds me of a book about the Creationist movement from a Sociological prospective. Good read. Maybe I'll look into reading more about SoSP.

  9. Spectre-7 said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 4:52 am

    Reminds me of a book that came out a decade ago called Reading Lolita in Tehran. I immediately dreamed of writing about my experiences with it in my own book, Reading Reading Lolita in Tehran in Tehran… and since that would clearly be a false account, I'd then work on the autobiographical exposé which I planned to call Writing Reading Reading Lolita in Tehran in Tehran in California.

    Which is to say… man, I love nesting structures .

  10. Spectre-7 said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 4:52 am

    Reminds me of a book that came out a decade ago called Reading Lolita in Tehran. I immediately dreamed of writing about my experiences with it in my own book, Reading Reading Lolita in Tehran in Tehran… and since that would clearly be a false account, I'd then work on the autobiographical exposé which I planned to call Writing Reading Reading Lolita in Tehran in Tehran in California.

    Which is to say… man, I love nesting structures .

  11. Spectre-7 said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 4:53 am

    Now I've accidentally double-posted, and I have no way to fix it. Drat!

  12. Mr Fnortner said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 4:56 am

    @Spectre-7: The poor man's recursion.

  13. Theophylact said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

    My agency is said to have a position for Administrative Assistant to the Assistant Administrator for Administration.

  14. Chris Waigl said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

    Well, since we're swapping telescoped or recursive titles, I'm taking the liberty to mention the science fiction short short story "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes' by Benjamin Rosenbaum" by Benjamin Rosenbaum [sic].

  15. Chris Waigl said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

    Well, since we're swapping telescoped or recursive titles, I'm taking the liberty to mention the science fiction short story "Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-planes' by Benjamin Rosenbaum" by Benjamin Rosenbaum [sic].

  16. Dan M. said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    This does seem to suggest that the Piraha are on to something.

  17. Circe said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

    I think this one-ups the "Asisstant Vice Presidents" that are found aplenty in financial institutions.

  18. Henning Makholm said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

    @myl above: Huh? I'm not saying it's content-free. Lots of research fields fit within a single discipline and still have content; I don't see why that couldn't be the case for this one. That the idea is plausible doesn't mean that it's automatically multidisciplinary; lots of plausible ideas fit within a single area.

  19. William Steed said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

    Circe – My university has about 15 Deputy Vice-Chancellors. No one seems to think this is a problem.

  20. David J. Littleboy said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    Mr Fnortner: "The poor man's recursion."

    "To iterate is human, to recurse divine." (Guy L. Steele Jr.)

  21. Peter Shea said,

    February 18, 2013 @ 9:53 am

    The Benjamin Rosenbaum story is a great mind-bender! I also loved the improbable collision of Finnish and the Indian languages which produced characters with names like Sarasvati Sitasdottir!

  22. Theophylact said,

    February 18, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    Chris Waigl: Let's not forget Gene Wolfe's "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories".

  23. Assorted links said,

    February 18, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

    [...] 7. How the elephants get stacked. [...]

  24. Jeff DeMarco said,

    February 18, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

    When I was in college the band had an annual banquet with a pre-banquet cocktail party. This being a band, that of course was not enough, and so the true hard core came up with the pre-pre-banquet cocktail party cocktail party.

  25. Assistant Village Idiot said,

    February 18, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    Mark Twain (unless it was O. Henry) had a story of nested quotation marks, as the narrator kept referring to earlier narrators with narrators inside 'em.

    It's turtles all the way down.

  26. J said,

    February 18, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

    Major Major Major Major

  27. leoboiko said,

    February 19, 2013 @ 5:49 am

    One of the most well-known books in learning Latin is Wheelock’s guide to Latin.

    But what if you find it too hard? Well, there's always A Comprehensive Guide To Wheelock’s Latin, so you can be guided to your guide. No word yet on A Guide to A Comprehensive Guide to Wheelock’s Latin.

    (But Wheelock's Guide seems to be its own specialized subfield, with such titles as the Workbook for Wheelock’s Latin, 38 Latin Stories Designed to Accompany Weelock’s Latin, Vocabulary Cards and Grammatical Forms Summary for Wheelock’s Latin, Cumulative Chapter Vocabulary Lists for Wheelock’s Latin, Readings From Wheelock’s Latin Audio CD et cetera.)

    [(myl) See "Recursive titles", 6/19/2004, which features Paul Schachter: Leave "Leave LEAVE YOUR LANGUAGE ALONE Alone" Alone: A Reply to Pulgram's "Leave LEAVE YOUR LANGUAGE ALONE Alone"...]

  28. Scott W. Somerville said,

    February 19, 2013 @ 9:15 am

    Warning: programming humor to follow…

    Given the recursive nature of this discipline, we could simplify the topic vastly by referring to it as "Thcience Polithy."

  29. Xmun said,

    February 19, 2013 @ 9:43 am

    @Peter Shea: Is Sitasdottir really a Finnish name? Looks more like Icelandic to me.

  30. Anthony said,

    February 19, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

    Just like by favorite breakfast food: Rice Krispies Treats Cereal cereal treat cereal

  31. ken lakritz said,

    February 19, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

    I had a friend in college who wrote a very serious senior thesis on the history of the history of literary criticism.

  32. prasad said,

    February 20, 2013 @ 6:50 am

    To paraphrase a wise man – traditionally one regards policy as the responsibility of government and science as the responsibility of scientists. However, questions of scientific policy can cause confusion between the policy of science and the science of policy. Especially when responsibility for the science of the policy of science conflicts – or overlaps with – responsibility for the policy of the science of policy.

  33. Rodger C said,

    February 20, 2013 @ 7:58 am

    @ken lakritz: Long ago in Comp. Lit. 501 I was given a bibliography of bobliographies of bibliographies. I think I still have it.

  34. Benjamin Rosenbaum said,

    February 25, 2013 @ 7:12 am

    Xmun has the right of it: Ultima Thule is Iceland (livery: "an elephant astride an iceberg and a volcano"). But the Aryan Raj may also have absorbed Finland, so perhaps there is also an Arjuna Harjunpää or two…

    Glad you liked the story!

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