The problem of a multidisciplinary approach to Social Network Analysis
In a recent review paper of Stephen P. Borgatti and colleagues in Science entitled “Network Analysis in the Social Sciences” the authors review interesting studies related about this topic mainly from the sociologist’s point of view.
The paper is indented to ”contribute to a dialogue among researchers from across the physical and social sciences” and is indeed very interesting for researchers more inclined to the natural sciences, since it contains a good and amendable explained compendium of social science studies about the topic.
It also addresses in its final observations a very common problem of multidisciplinary science: a certain disdain towards the goals, methods and even results of other branches of science. This becomes very evident when social science touches natural sciences as in it is the case in Social Network Analysis. The authors resume this dilemma in the study of networks with “…each camp tends to see the other as merely descriptive“, which may be caused by different approaches towards the problem as we try to visualize in the following figure.
However, in our opinion (and interpreting the papers final paragraph) it is crucial to overcome this differences and prejudices and to understand the motivations and goals of each other research areas. A real comprehension of human social behaviour will only be possible when the universalism of natural sciences is combined with the particularism of social sciences. Only today’s combined research efforts of social and natural sciences may lay the base of future Social Network study.