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How research programs come apart: The example of supersymmetry and the disunity of physics

Gautheron, Lucas and Omodei, Elisa (2023) How research programs come apart: The example of supersymmetry and the disunity of physics. Quantitative Science Studies, 4 (3). pp. 671-699.

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Abstract

According to Peter Galison, the coordination of different “subcultures” within a scientific field happens through local exchanges within “trading zones.” In his view, the workability of such trading zones is not guaranteed, and science is not necessarily driven towards further integration. In this paper, we develop and apply quantitative methods (using semantic, authorship, and citation data from scientific literature), inspired by Galison’s framework, to the case of the disunity of high-energy physics. We give prominence to supersymmetry, a concept that has given rise to several major but distinct research programs in the field, such as the formulation of a consistent theory of quantum gravity or the search for new particles. We show that “theory” and “phenomenology” in high-energy physics should be regarded as distinct theoretical subcultures, between which supersymmetry has helped sustain scientific “trades.” However, as we demonstrate using a topic model, the phenomenological component of supersymmetry research has lost traction and the ability of supersymmetry to tie these subcultures together is now compromised. Our work supports that even fields with an initially strong sentiment of unity may eventually generate diverging research programs and demonstrates the fruitfulness of the notion of trading zones for informing quantitative approaches to scientific pluralism.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Gautheron, Lucaslucas.gautheron@gmail.com0000-0002-3776-3373
Omodei, Elisa0000-0002-6748-5124
Keywords: unity of science, unity of physics, particle physics, scientific pluralism, trading zones
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
Depositing User: Mr Lucas Gautheron
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2023 16:21
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2023 16:21
Item ID: 22885
Journal or Publication Title: Quantitative Science Studies
Publisher: MIT Press
Official URL: https://direct.mit.edu/qss/article/4/3/671/117340/...
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00262
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Specific Sciences > Physics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
General Issues > Social Epistemology of Science
Date: 2023
Page Range: pp. 671-699
Volume: 4
Number: 3
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/22885

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