What Sciences Are There?

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

Over 1900 people have already responded to our survey of how scientists use computers, and it still has two weeks left to run. Our next task will be to analyze the data we've collected, which (among other things) means coding people's free-form descriptions of their specialties so that we can talk about physicists and chemists as opposed to "this one person who's doing N-brane quantum foam approximations to multiversal steady-state thingummies".

Except: are "physics" and "chemistry" too broad? At that level, there are only a handful of sciences: astronomy, geology, biology, mathematics, psychology, um, computing, er, Curly, Larry, and Moe. Or maybe you'd distinguish "ecology" from "biology". Or "oceanography" from something else, or — you see the problem. Rather than making up our own classification scheme, I'd like to adopt one that's widely used and generally intelligible, but I'm having trouble finding one. Yahoo!, Wikipedia, and other web sites have incompatible (and idiosyncratic) divisions; the Dewey Decimal System and other library schemes have a very 19th Century view of science, and the ACM/IEEE publication codes are domain-specific.

If anyone can point me at something else (ideally, something with about two dozen categories — that feels like it ought to be about right, just from eyeballing the data we have so far), I'd be grateful.

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