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Multidisciplinary Research Blurs Lines Between 'Hard' and 'Soft' Sciences

As scientists answer complex questions about how humans think, perceive the world, and behave, age-old divisions between the "hard" and "soft" sciences are beginning to crumble. Researchers in the life and physical sciences increasingly rely on fundamental principles from social, behavioral, and economic science to resolve complex problems and develop new technology. The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are further blurring the lines, funding initiatives that co

Lisa Seachrist

As scientists answer complex questions about how humans think, perceive the world, and behave, age-old divisions between the "hard" and "soft" sciences are beginning to crumble. Researchers in the life and physical sciences increasingly rely on fundamental principles from social, behavioral, and economic science to resolve complex problems and develop new technology. The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are further blurring the lines, funding initiatives that combine facts and figures from the hard sciences with the interpretive context of the social sciences.

"Don't quote me using the terms 'hard science' and 'soft science,'" says Joseph Bordogna, an engineer who is acting deputy director of NSF. "I've always thought such a distinction had no meaning."


CONGRESSIONAL SCRUTINY: Rep. Robert Walker urges NSF to eliminate its social and behavioral science directorate.
That lack of distinction becomes particularly evident in the development of new computer technologies. For example,...

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