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 8: The Laboratory in Society

Dominique Vinck

Subjects: innovation and technology, innovation policy

Extract

Laboratory studies help us to understand the local construction of scientific output, but also its validation within the scientific community, its adoption by other researchers or socioeconomic actors, its translation into technological developments and its acceptance, dissemination and appropriation by society. Latour (1983) wrote ‘Give me a laboratory and I will raise the world’, but the mystery of the laboratory’s power still remains intact. The laboratory reconfigures entities from the natural world and from society by inserting them into a sociotechnical assembly; it transforms human beings, creates new beings and produces visions of the world, discourses, instruments and collectives. However, simply creating such entities in the laboratory does not necessarily lead to the world being changed. It is therefore important to push beyond the laboratory and follow what happens to sociotechnical output outside of its walls. Beyond the Laboratory Beyond the laboratory, researchers depend on other researchers for the scientific validation of their local creations. If such creations are ignored or rejected, then they will forever remain local. If they are adopted by others, amended, integrated into new creations and, above all, if they leave a mark on posterity, they become universal truths, relating to nature and society. Peer Review Scientific output is subject to the critical appraisal of peers, who discuss it and suggest various modifications: a statement may be poorly backed up, data may be called into question, interpretations may be risky, or demonstrations not very convincing. Draft publications are submitted to colleagues and are passed around before...

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