Monday, November 27, 2006

Software Engineering as a Discipline

Some believe that Information Systems should be treated as a discipline in itself. In a recent article at the CACM, Katerattanakul, Han and Rea report that Information System is growing from “an applied discipline drawing upon other disciplines” to “…the new perception that IS is a reference discipline for others”.

They used a cross-reference analysis to show that papers being published in IS journals are being cited in other fields of knowledge. Although most citation came from the field itself and to the seeds disciplines of computer science and management, it is interesting to point out that IS is being cited in journals from engineering, sociology and medicine.

The study used the following approach: selected 1120 articles published in the one of the following journals (as representative of the area): CACM, EJIS, ISJ, ISR, I&M and MISQ; trace references to these articles in two large repositories, SSCI and SCI; the citation source was then classified by areas.

The following areas provided more references to these 1120 articles: IS – 43.9%, Computer Science – 28%, Management 7,6%, Engineering, 5,8%, Sociology, 2,6% and Others with 3,2%.

My understanding from the data is that the authors may have a point, but still most of the references are still too much multidisciplinary instead of interdisciplinary. I was surprised with the difference of Computer Science and Management. I would suppose that most of the citations would come from Management, but… A possible explanation is that from the sample of 1,120 there could have a large set of articles really more on computer science than in information systems, but these just show us how blurred are these distinctions.

Why did I post this note?

Well, I believe if somebody did a similar study of software engineering, it would stand even better as a reference discipline. The previous post on Jackson is one of the reasons why I believe SE is a discipline by itself (see a previous post on the topic).

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