Symmetry Is Beautiful

Shwed, Uri; Bearman, Peter Shawn

The Temporal Structure of Scientific Consensus Formation (Shwed and Bearman 2010) developed a procedure—which did not require expert judgment—to evaluate the level of contestation in scientific literatures. Examining different cases of consensus and contestation, we showed that science may progress in a spiral pattern that quickly generates new questions in new domains from recent answers (e.g., climate change research), stagnate around old questions in a cyclical pattern (e.g., smoking research in the 1950s), or entrench in a flat pattern responding to irrelevant external critiques (e.g., research on autism and vaccines). Bruggeman, Traag, and Uitermark (hereafter BTU) argue that without distinguishing between positive and negative citations, our procedure is of little value. They arrive at this conclusion by misunderstanding the role of network communities in our procedure. They then propose as an improvement a self-defeating solution that relies on distinguishing between postive and negative ties, requires expert evaluation, and destroys the possiblity of an unbiased evaluation. Avoiding that trap was the point of our article.


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Also Published In

American Sociological Review

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Academic Units
Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics
Published Here
April 23, 2019