Jacob Foster

Department of Sociology

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Research Interests

I am interested in the evolution and population dynamics of ideas (broadly construed). How are new ideas born? Why do some spread? What role do ideas play in organizing social structures? And how do social structures affect the genesis, diffusion, and ultimate extinction of ideas? Currently, I work on a particular subset of the world of ideas: the beliefs, practices, and theories that make up scientific knowledge. By fitting rich computational models of discovery and impact to data extracted from articles and patents, I infer the preferences and social processes that give scientific knowledge its particular shape and trajectory. Broadly speaking, I aim to generate new knowledge about the process of knowledge-making; to identify and understand the heuristics, strategies, and institutions that guide scientists as they make sense of the natural world.