The Sociology of Scientific Work

The Sociology of Scientific Work

The Fundamental Relationship between Science and Society

PRIME Series on Research and Innovation Policy in Europe

Dominique Vinck

More than ever before, science and technology play a significant role in modern society as evidenced by the development of nanotechnologies and the controversies surrounding GMOs and climate change. This book comprehensively explores the flourishing field of science and technology studies and examines its creation, development and interaction with contemporary society.

Chapter 3: The Sciences as Collectives

Dominique Vinck

Subjects: innovation and technology, innovation policy


With Merton, science was studied as a unique, normative institution. The term ‘scientific community’ was coined in reference to the different parts making up science. However, Storer (1966) suggests that the normative structure does not go far enough to explain how these parts are integrated to form a whole. The internal organisation of science has to be taken into account too. This internal organisation projects an alternative image of science, as a set of different communities, which can be analysed in terms of profession or discipline. As we shall see, it is possible to go beyond these analyses by studying regimes of knowledge production. The Profession The scientific community can be seen as a series of specialised professions, each with its own internal organisation, in the same way as doctors, architects or lawyers belong to a specialised profession. To become autonomous, a profession has to have an internal organisation and be made up of members who are all eager to contribute to relations. In the case of medicine, there is a professional association and a formal deontology, but can the same be applied to scientific research? Storer (ibid.) saw within scientific specialities professions, inside which there are well-ordered and regulated links between members. The ethos of science cannot fully explain how these links are actually regulated as it does not cover the way members of a group are attached to the group’s norms. This attachment comes from the fact that researchers count on the upholding of their profession as a...

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