Chapter 8: Science as a Communications Network: An Illustration of Nanoscale Science Research
Caroline S. Wagner and Susan A. Mohrman INTRODUCTION 1. Science shares many features with organic, complex adaptive systems. Indeed, it is practical for evaluation purposes to characterize scientific discovery as a network of communications (Hesse, 1974). This is the natural extension of considering science as a system (Von Bertalanffy, 1972), and specifically as a system of communications, as Nicolas Luhmann and others have done (Luhmann, 1986). Those who conduct scientific research organize in response to opportunity, generally created by the possibility of advancement married to funding (Whitley, 1984). Some scientific research is corporately organized, but the majority of research projects self-organize – researchers identify beneficial collaborations and voluntarily form into teams. These self-organizing networks of scientists – often working on projects across geographic or disciplinary boundaries – are the most notable feature of science in the late 2000s. As the scientific knowledge base has grown, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any one researcher to know all the things needed to innovate (Gibbons et al., 1994). The collaborative teams that conduct cooperative research constitute an invisible college of practitioners who collaborate not because they are told to but because they want to, who work together not because they share a laboratory or even a discipline but because they can offer each other complementary insight, knowledge, or skills (Wagner, 2008). Scientific research networks are the artifacts that emerge from these connections among scientists. Networks organize the physical and intellectual churn of researchers around the world as they travel to access the subject of research...
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