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Yardstics

Yardstics

The yardstics blog is discussing issues related to marketing and marketing communication. It is to be used as an tool for learning and sharing of information in the mentioned areas. Scroll your way through the blog and find information related to your current course. Ask your lecturer for a password if you want to add material. Enjoy your stay!

The Scientist – Nerd or Versatile Entrepreneur?

Measurement Posted on Wed, November 05, 2008 10:43:46

Society’s impact on Science

Science today is a matter of “not just to be right but also believed by people” (Nowotny et al., 2001). The media as well as ethical issues, are regulating and controlling science; both in research and education. Scientific knowledge production is a social process where we need to know the characteristics of the groups that create and use it. Changes in society such as the information revolution, the economic goals that have substituted military goals, dissolving borders between state, market and cultural science, research (especially applied research) being more valued than pure science and a preference for research that has led to greater uncertainty, have led to changes in knowledge institutions as a consequence.

Looking at Research Councils, industrial and governmental research, we can observe an increased interplay with different actors in society. Universities today have also more alliances with other actors and there are blurred borders between research and education. We find today longer programs and more people on PhD programs.

There is also an increase of both research and mass education and with new actors such as corporate universities and virtual universities offering educational programs and easily obtained degrees. These types of universities differ from traditional universities in the sense that they deliver on a quasi-industrial basis and on a, to a greater extent, for-profit basis. As a producer of new knowledge these types of universities may be considered as rather unimportant institutions (Nowotny et al., 2001).

The Scientist Today

The role of a researcher today may often resemble that of an entrepreneur in regards to the dependency of external funding for research projects. To be able to “win” the resources over other competitors, the researcher has to skillfully “sell in” the research projects and how the company or organization (and society) can benefit from the research results. This is often a complicated matter when thinking that many factors are needed to be taken into consideration including ethical and environmental issues. This dependency on resources can also be seen as a major control mechanism of conducting scientific research. After the researcher has obtained resources to fund the research project, the role of the researcher takes the form of a project manager. In reality, this project manager, i.e. researcher is usually managing several research projects at the same time. Hence, the role of the researcher today is quite a dynamic and complex one; she is also an entrepreneur, project manager, author, teacher, and advisor to mention a view. It would be interesting to study to what extent society is in fact aware of the role of the scientist today.

Claudia Rademaker

© Copyright 2008: Stics. This article may not be re-produced (in full or part) in any format/media off-line or Internet based, without prior permission from Stockholm Institute of Communication Science. www.stics.se



Inside the Organizations of Science

Measurement Posted on Wed, November 05, 2008 10:30:44

Rather than a community of isolated geniuses reading the book of Nature, science has transformed into a product of a complex social organization that has become well-established in educational institutions and employment markets. It is in research laboratories and universities where knowledge is produced and justified by established methods obtained by long training programs. “It is the result of collectively organized work”. Competition for scarce resources that are not only of economic character but of a cultural and social nature as well, are causing universities and university departments to be hesitant about accepting outsiders as members of their particular population. By looking upon scientific research as a form of work as part of a work organization we can make an analysis of the structures in the knowledge production and evaluation of knowledge claims in various manners and situations (Whitley, 1984).

Inside the Organizations of Science

When observing university procedures i.e. student admission, undergraduate and graduate students’ examination, theses defense, doctoral and professorial candidates and promotion of evaluations, there is clearly a use of gate-keeper mechanisms. Becoming and being a member of the scientific community means therefore passing through a series of quality controls.

Constant feedback among insiders is created by socialization. Once accepted as an insider, the new member is subjected to rites of incorporation and will formally remain a member. However, once accepted as a member, means also that the new member has to keep up building personal reputation by publishing research results and gaining peer support.

Control by Cultural Boundaries

According to Thomas Gieryn, there are three types of rhetoric of science; expulsion, expansion and protection of autonomy. The first refers to boundary-work set by rivalries fighting for epistemic authority, each of whom claims to be scientific. Real science is separated from a number of other challenging groups; pseudoscience, amateur science, deviant or fraudulent science, bad science, junk science, popular science. The second type refers to boundary-work when seeking to extend the frontiers or the exclusive right of science to judge truth when rivals of epistemic authority fight for jurisdictional control over a particular domain. The third is a type of boundary-work against external intervention from, for example, the government or politics. Scientists put up interpretative walls, from external actors (legislators or corporate managers) who attempt to use science for political or market ambitions, in order to shield their professional autonomy over the choice of research problems or standards. In the case of mass media attempting to discredit or question a scientist’s work, scientists will re-draw boundaries to restore monopoly to the members inside of science. “As contestants for credibility pursue, deny, expand, constrict, protect, invade, usurp, enforce, or merely justify the epistemic authority of science (however bounded and landmarked), cultural maps get drawn and drawn again” (Gieryn, 1999).

Knowledge production; control, structures and evaluation

Modern science is distinguished by its commitment to continuous novelty production with strong collective coordination of research procedures, strategies and task outcomes. The need for peer review, building a positive reputation combined with the endless revision of work procedures leads to a coordination of task outcomes obtained by a formal public communication system. Modern science can be seen as a type of system of work organization and control that is characterized by its high task uncertainty. Compared to other work activities, research activities are therefore uncertain in the sense that task results are neither repetitious nor very much predictable (Whitley, 1984).

Collective Control of Intellectual Change

Challenging new theories may be replacing established truths, however, the university’s screening task may also act as a shield to protect the “dominant paradigm” (Kuhn, 1962).

According to Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1996) normal science means research based on earlier recognized advancement. Kuhn claims that conducting normal science for the scientist means also a career free from intense conflicts among peers since this type of science is not aiming for greater scientific revolutions except is more puzzle solving and mopping up in its character. Normal Science means basically research within given frames. Kuhn here thus claims that “Normal Science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none”. This is in contrast to the popular belief of science and is for example challenging the critical rationalism of scientists like Popper. Popper looks upon the core of scientific rationality as continuously scrutinizing already accepted scientific beliefs. Kuhn claims further that all novelties of fact or theory lead to the end of normal science, and that normal science does not seek its own termination.

Nonetheless, the role of a paradigm plays a vital role for the scientist to be able to recognize something as anomalous which, for discovery, is an essential prerequisite. Though, the discovery of an anomaly on its own is not adequate for a paradigm change.

Normal science attempts to bring theory and fact into closer harmony by questioning its models and never criticizing the background theory itself. Paradigm-shifts occur when normal puzzle solving fails to resolve anomalies; crisis emerges and the scientific activity gradually changes in its nature. After this transition, methods, goals and the view of the field will have changed. Some historians however view theory change as rather a change in the relations amongst the data as opposed to a change in perception and therefore in the data themselves.

Using Kuhnian terms, a discipline that is more paradigm-bound, the more predictable, visible, and replicable are research outcomes and the more limited is permissible novelty. Since older generations in academia have power through their positions it is difficult for researchers to develop new and revolutionary paradigms. The ones more apt to developing new paradigms are hence very young scholars as well as those who are very new in a field. However, these researchers might experience that their new observations are being met by these older generations who are defending old theory and/or are looking at the new theory with biased eyes before it is being accepted.

In order for research results to be highly regarded, the purpose of novelty production should be to influence and direct the work (aims and skills) of other colleagues. Insignificant research results that are published, will not contribute positively to the researcher’s reputation no matter how sophisticated. Consequently, modern research is restricted by the need to follow collective standards and should be in relevance with the work of colleagues. Novelty, in this system of cultural production, is rewarded however; innovations must be accepted and used by colleagues to build positive reputations. Thereby strong collective control of intellectual change is sustained (Whitley, 1984).

Claudia Rademaker

Stockholm Institute of Communication of Science

© Copyright 2008: Stics. This article may not be re-produced (in full or part) in any format/media off-line or Internet based, without prior permission from Stockholm Institute of Communication Science. www.stics.se



Science in Society

Measurement Posted on Wed, November 05, 2008 10:20:02

Science has come a long way since the early alchemists held out the lure of gold back in the fourth century. Science has not always been popular or embraced by society nor has it been continuously looked upon as bad throughout history. Society has had recurring periods of negative and positive attitudes towards science. We have evolved from a non-science society (Mode Zero) to science being relatively isolated (Mode One) towards a contemporary society that is speaking back to science (Mode Two). The scientist today is more than merely a scientist; she also needs the skills of an entrepreneur working in an uncertain and socially complex environment.

The Scientist: devil, hero, idealist or the one to blame for crisis?

The attitudes of society towards science and scientists are stemming from a complex of influences namely, social, religious, philosophical and moral. Additionally, influences are coming from the personalities, or perceived personalities of real life scientists as represented in the media. The impact of media on science can be observed when looking at Western literature who has contributed to both positive and negative images of science. Throughout history, the scientist has had various representations in literature. Six negative recurrent stereotypes in literature are the alchemist, the stupid virtuoso, the romantic depiction of the unfeeling scientist, the heroic adventurer, the helpless scientist and the scientist as idealist. Fictitious characters such as Dr. Faust (The alchemist selling his soul to the Devil), Frankenstein (The scientist losing control), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Critique towards scientific materialism), and Dr. Strangelove (Criticizing biologists and psychologists for manipulating people) have all contributed to a negative image of the scientist. A recurring theme is the reference to Dr. Frankenstein as the scientist being out of control. There have also been positive portrayals of scientists by literature such as The New Atlantis in 1626 (Bacon), Principia in 1697 (Newton), On the Origin of Species in 1859 (Darwin) and Jules Verne’s Around the World in eighty Days in 1873 (Haynes, 1994). Even when observing today’s entertaining media and its portrayal of stereotypes of scientists we can see both positive and negative depictions such as TV series like CSI and movies like The Manchurian candidate, a version of Dr. Strangelove.

From Mode Zero to Mode One

It was as long ago as the fifth century B.C. that abstract concepts in consistency with the fundamental belief of alchemy, existed in China in conjunction with the Taoist credence that transformation and change are crucial aspects of nature. It was Aristotle’s thesis that shaped the theoretical foundation for Western alchemy. The Aristotelian theory of transmutation became connected with the Babylonian belief in astrology, the Chaldean traditions of magic and with Egyptian practices of metalworkers who together with the secret recipes of the priests of Isis were skillfully producing gold with silver, copper, tin and zinc. Practical alchemy was therefore closely associated with the production of gold and this ensured both its popularity and its prolonged survival. Another dream of the alchemists was the artificial production of a homunculus; a minute human being. This was of course seen as a threat to the divine basis of life as illustrated by the Church. The same commotion by the Church can be observed later when Charles Darwin (1809-1882) introduced his theory of evolution and even today in regards to in vitro fertilization or genetic engineering.

It was Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) who took the first step into changing the unfavoured image of scientific study and breaking the link with the Faust legend (alchemy). It was thanks to Bacon, utilitarian and future oriented in his thinking, who popularized the place of science and scientists in society. He introduced and promoted aphorism (knowledge is power) to the public. Bacon stressed the importance of experimentation and observation versus Aristotle who bended his hypotheses to name an example. Bacon endorsed demystifying scientific knowledge and making it more acceptable, a growing corpus of knowledge through team efforts and building an international community in order to collect and share knowledge with all races and foremost on the importance of theory by insisting on the need for empirical basis for knowledge (Haynes, 1994).

Science had now evolved into a discipline with the main focus on the context of discovery whereby its goal is more for research to justify the discovery and whereby problems are set and solved in a context governed by the, primarily academic, interests of a specific community; this is also called Mode One by scientists such as Nowotny, Scott and Gibbons.

Bacon was the founder of The Royal Society of London in 1662. He is also known for his claim that nature is to be explored and manipulated for experiments and as a consequence society held Bacon mainly responsible for the environmental crisis in the twentieth century.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) supported Bacon’s belief in conducting research with a focus on empirical observation and he promoted that it is not sinful to seek knowledge. Newton claimed three features of research structure to be essential namely, simplicity, uniformity and aesthetics. He is considered as one of the greatest scientists ever and inspired literature to depict positive stereotypes of scientists namely adventure heroes, saving the earth from evil space invaders or setting up a utopian society grounded on the principles of science. This period of hero worship was terminated when the bomb fell in Hiroshima (1945). Scientists in Western literature were hereafter depicted as ruthlessly sacrificing individuals and even whole nations, only to fulfill their scientific curiosity (Haynes, 1994).

Epistemic Authority

Modern science developed its own domain, in which it could act in a rather autonomous space, independent from direct social, political and religious control. This created a certain aura of mystique around science. Scientists were dedicated to the experimental method as a means to explore the natural world. Nevertheless, focus was mainly on improving the state of knowledge and to move away from purely religious epistemic authority. Consequently, the Church has had a continuously problematic relation with science, since science has challenged fundamental beliefs of the church.

In the battle for epistemic authority, science has always prevailed. One of the well known battles is the one between the Catholic Church and Galileo Galilei regarding the heliocentric and the geocentric world view. From the perspective of society Galilei, and thereby science, won the battle because of empirical evidence communicated to society. Over the years, since the days of Galilei, the body of evidence in favor of the heliocentric world view has grown immensely. Nonetheless, it took the Catholic Church almost four hundred years before it acknowledged that Galilei, and thereby science, was right. On the 31st of October 1992 the Catholic Church officially withdrew its condemnation of Galileo Galilei and his theories. This incident, among many others, has been shaping society’s perceptions of science in a positive way.

The scientist in the twentieth century had different faces; from conducting research for his own sake (early 20th century), disobedience through the establishments (late 1940’s), social conscience (1970’s) to the belief that technology could solve every day problems such as for example environmental issues (1980’s-1990’s).

From Mode One to Mode Two

Science today, long after Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin have made their contributions to science and the image of science, research is now to a greater extent linked to uncertainty where there is a need to include people in the research process. Some three hundred years after the development of modern science focus has shifted towards applicability and in what ways science can solve everyday problems in society; also by some scientists called Mode Two. Contemporary society expects science to contribute to socio economic development. We have now moved towards science with a main focus on application in a context of implications. Science has become more embedded in society. This means that the scientist of today has to think to a greater extent about the effects of research results (cultural responsibility) which is often very difficult since it is not always possible to predict and guarantee research outcomes. This is a major contrast when comparing to research in Mode One where research was dealt with a scientific independence. With media acting as a filter there is certain need for a strategy to handle this consequence of Mode Two. Concerns such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are today one of a highly debated topic within science and among society.

The scientist today has to deliver social robust knowledge whereby relations are important, research contributes to a process that stabilizes and whereby social knowledge is included. Social robust knowledge means that research is close to acceptability and open ended which means that it is subjected to testing, feedback and improvement. Science has moved from uniformity and homogeneity to variation and heterogeneity which may cause anxiety among researchers (Nowotny et al., 2001).

An increase of supply of researchers as well as an increasing demand of research have led us from segregation i.e. High Energy Physics (impersonal), to integration i.e. Molecular Biology (empirical content as well as individual oriented). In the latter, the borderline between Chemistry and Medicine has diffused.

Society in Mode Two

Due to the information revolution, we are finding ourselves in a knowledge society which is important between countries and companies. Some researchers claim that knowledge comes with risk and so does a knowledge society. They relate to the fact that with increasing uncertainty, expectations and anticipations from the general public combined with flexibility in space (i.e. globalization) there is a much more self organizing capacity of society which leads to difficulties to draw boundaries between science and society.

Society is increasing in its complexity with reduced predictability and irregularity. When looking at today’s turmoil in the financial market we can observe this type of reduced predictability which is leading to irregularity.

The New Agora

There is a phenomenon called the New Agora by some researchers which refers to the scientific arena of today. The word Agora originates from the ancient Greek cities where people came together to discuss and share knowledge. These researchers argue that in the scientific arena of today it is wrong to look upon the intrusion of society as inhibiting, or even destroying scientific novelty. Science in the New Agora is essential since society is a key source of creativity and thereby of innovation. However, there is a need for new rules in this new environment of knowledge producing (Nowotny et al., 2001). These rules might be necessary in order to keep the right balance of borders between Science and Society.

Science and society are linked together in the same way as research is linked to uncertainty. The two cannot live without the other. Being close to the public means that scientists also have the opportunity to promote science as a “brand”, continuously building it, protecting it and keeping it valuable. This should be the mission and dedication of all scientists.

Claudia Rademaker

Stockholm Institute of Communication Science

© Copyright 2008: Stics. This article may not be re-produced (in full or part) in any format/media off-line or Internet based, without prior permission from Stockholm Institute of Communication Science. www.stics.se