Social sciences and computer science : forced marriage or marriage of convenience?

  • Denise Pumain (University of Paris I, Paris, France)
E1 05 (Leibniz-Saal)


When considering the last five decades history of disciplinary relationships between social sciences and computation, two major steps can be identified. In a first stage, until the 1990s, the perceived necessity of quantifying for making analysis reproducible and formalizing for sharing knowledge was so imperative that the “computational turn” was unavoidable. In total submission most social scientists became dependent on computer scientists as users of predefined software for statistical analysis, automatic mapping or Geographical Information Systems. Very little of social science could be injected in computing, the dedication of some computer scientist for handling specific problems of social science was very rare. Even our first experiments of model building for simulating the evolution of social complex systems were made within an obvious asymmetry of information and power of decision. It is only in the recent years that a total change in the status of interdisciplinary interaction could occur, shifting towards real win-win interdisciplinary cooperation. In the academic world a large coordinated and well funded program coupled with an intelligent use of genetic algorithms and distributed computing are apparently necessary ingredients for success, while in the realm of business and public uses the injection of selected knowledge from social sciences in the algorithms becomes more and more a part of the intelligence injected in the algorithmic applications. The best practices in new data analytics will necessarily proceed from such voluntary collaboration.

Antje Vandenberg

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (Leipzig), Germany Contact via Mail

Eckehard Olbrich

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (Leipzig), Germany

Sven Banisch

Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences (Leipzig), Germany