The Fundamental Relationship between Science and Society
PRIME Series on Research and Innovation Policy in Europe
This manual has allowed us to explore a wide variety of approaches and issues relating to the study of science. It has underlined the importance and the thorny nature of the ever-increasing questions it raises. Some of these stem from the very dynamics of the sciences, as practices change according to the objects, instruments and forms of organisation involved. Moreover, they are inherently tied to what is happening in society today and the challenges facing it. Nevertheless, there are other questions arising from changes to the social study of science itself. The concluding paragraphs review some of the structural elements relating to these questions. Questions Arising from Recurrent Academic Debates In the debate about the relative autonomy of the institution of science and the independence of scientific knowledge with respect to social influences, some authors reaffirm the idea of a partially autonomous, immanent development of science. They underline the differential role of social and cognitive factors (or epistemic factors), and reject or reformulate the postulates of relativist and constructivist sociology. They develop a neoinstitutionalist sociology (Kreimer, 1997) or a socio-epistemology. Boudon and Clavelin (1994), for example, state that the position of Karl Mannheim, according to which certain (scientific) proposals are independent of the social context, is the only reasonable position to adopt. It recognises the influence of social factors on scientific development, but defends the idea that science is intrinsically objective. From this standpoint, the actornetwork theory (ANT) is reproached for its inability to differentiate and counterbalance the influence of...
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