Saturday, May 5, 2007

Technology by the Numbers

Ida R. Hoos, a critic of assessing technology solely in quantitative terms, died in late April at age 94. Trained as a sociologist, Hoos resisted the "quantomania" that "prevails in the assessment of technologies" during the heyday of the OTA.

Have things returned to quantomania? The NSF is pursuing a new "science of science policy" initiative and there appears to be greater emphasis on the agency to quantify the output of its grants and awards. Within the nano-and-society sub-community, the focus also seems to be more heavily on quantitative social science with less attention to humanistic and qualitative research. Is this short-sighted? Is it an attempt to appear more scientific in the study of science and technology? Hoos, as one of her colleagues remembered, argued that for complex technological enterprises, one couldn't always rely solely on a systems-analysis approach.

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