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 5: Social Dynamics in the Sciences

Dominique Vinck

Subjects: innovation and technology, innovation policy


In Chapter 2, science was explored as a social institution regulated by universal norms. In Chapters 3 and 4, it was seen as being subdivided into different subsets. We shall now turn our attention to the mechanisms behind these social subsets, in other words we shall study the social dynamics of the world of science. Historical sociology reports on the emergence of this world and the deep-reaching mutations underlying it. But there are also social structuring phenomena at work and these too need to be considered. The first phenomenon is the growth of the scientific population. The number of researchers has risen from 50,000 at the end of the nineteenth century, to one million in the middle of the twentieth century, to roughly 3.5 million at the start of the twenty-first century. And this is only in OECD countries. The spread of this population across the world is undergoing transformations: research has notably become increasingly popular in Asian countries and, albeit in a tardy and unequal manner, it has become more feminised according to discipline. This population is also subject to migratory flows and circulatory movements. Demographers have suggested models to explain generational balances and their transformations. The population of researchers is thus both heterogeneous and evolving. Furthermore, we shall see that stratification phenomena and transactional dynamics are also involved in its structuring. Social Stratification of the Scientific Space In his analyses, Merton describes a theoretical moral equality between researchers, but he quickly realises that there are deep-reaching inequalities...

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