SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND THE SOCIAL SCIENCES

The social science that I selected for this week’s assignment is Information Science.  My field of study at Walden University is Applied Management and Decision Sciences with a specialization in Management Information Systems (MIS).  MIS falls under the wide umbrella of science known as Information Science (Borko,1968), as quoted by Bates (1999), states that, “Information science is that discipline that investigates the properties and behavior of information, the forces governing the flow of information, and the means of processing information for optimum accessibility and usability. It is concerned with that body of knowledge relating to the origination, collection, organization, storage, retrieval, interpretation, transmission, transformation, and utilization of information.  It has both a pure science component, which inquires into the subject without regard to its application, and an applied science component, which develops services and products (p.1).”

By definition science is a systematic process, performed by humans, for collecting unbiased information about the world in which we live in an effort to gain knowledge and solve problems (Gottlieb,1987; Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008; Railsback, 2008).  From this collective definition of science, scientific knowledge differs from other knowledge in that it normally entails a systematic process as opposed to “other” knowledge acquisition, which does not.  General knowledge other than scientific knowledge is gained through experience or association.  Knowledge can even be described as generally being “aware” of something (Merriam-Webster Online, 2008). That is not to say that general knowledge acquisition, does not involve a process, it is to say that the process that is use is not systematic.  In “Method in Social Science” Sayer (1992) assets that in order for us to develop knowledge about an object we must possess raw material and tools. “In trying to understand the world, we use existing knowledge and skills, drawn from whatever cultural resources are available, to work upon other “raw” materials – knowledge in the form of data, pre-existing arguments, information or whatever, (pg. 16),” explains Sayer.
Within Sayer’s explanation he does not include the need for a process to acquiring knowledge- that is driven by a systematic methodology, in such a way that pure science does.

The definition of science is applicable to information science.  Information science views information as an entity.  From this perspective those that study information science try to systematically develop techniques and devices to aid humans in the use of information, and to solve problems pertaining to information.  Not to be forgotten, is Information Science’s pure-science and applied-science components, which both are products of scientific research.

To further validate this answer is the concept that information has four aspects from which it can be examined, they are (Hsieh, 2006):
•    information as a representation of knowledge
•    information as data in environment
•    information as part of communication
•    information as a  commodity

Information can represent both the signifier and the signified, or the content – what is known, and the text – what is expressed (Hsieh, 2006).
Spink, states that, “Information Science is not only a technical but even more so a cognitive, social, and situational process. With the marriage of computers and telecommunications, information Science is based on facilitating interactive information processes, involving information feedback and human information coordinating behaviors (p.1).” From Spinks view -the process of information science is more cognitive, social, and situational, and one can argue that Information Science is not a science.  One can also successfully argue that information science is not a science if based on the previous definition of science, in that one does not kneed to be an expert of the content of the information that they are studying, only information expertise (Bates, 1999).

For example, an information specialist obtains a position at a biotechnology firm, it would useful to read some books about molecular biology and perhaps even about the experts in the field.  But, simply the most important for the information specialist working in a biotechnology firm is to be to use information-related talents (Bates, 1999).

From this standpoint one can see that to be an information scientist one does not need to a deep-understanding of the information you are working with, on the other hand a molecular biologist must have a deep understanding of molecular biology to be able to work within that field.

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