abstract the evolution of statistical thought and enumerations is reviewed as well as their use in the description and explanation of natural and social phenomena. the social sciences have been active producers and consumers of statistical data. at present it may be argued whether in widening its scope in the attempt to embrace and control the growing and disordered amalgam of users there is a change of skin of statistics as a discipline. this is not merely an academic question related to the scope and boundaries of the field of knowledge, but a practical and political one. the specificity of science and technology invites to analyze the diversity and overlapping of the activities in which scientists and engineers participate, that touch dimensions of reality as different as economics, public administration, forms of evaluation, the interests of researchers, industry, the state, financial capital, etc. the growth in the quantity of more or less comparable data about science and technology helps interpret the changes. hence the interest posed by new organizational forms for this social monitoring as the observatories of science, technology, and innovation.