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

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