Toward an ecology of scientific knowledge: science, social learning, and cultural evolution

Jacob Foster
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Science is an example of highly successful institutionalized social learning, leading to rapid cumulative cultural evolution. In this talk, I outline the striking convergence between this view of science and the one developed in science studies. Using data from millions of scientific papers, I illustrate how scientists use social cues to select research problems and how these heuristics lead to more (and less) efficient discovery. I then argue that formal theories of learning and cultural evolution offer new insight on old puzzles in the history and sociology of science.

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