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blog:reading-robert-k-merton-priorities-part-1 [2017/03/07 08:32]
seanburns
blog:reading-robert-k-merton-priorities-part-1 [2019/06/04 09:45] (current)
seanburns
Line 65: Line 65:
 > the socially enforced value of humility is in most immediate point, serving, as it does, to reduce the misbehavior of scientists below the rate that would occur if importance were assigned only to originality and the establishing of priority (p. 303). > the socially enforced value of humility is in most immediate point, serving, as it does, to reduce the misbehavior of scientists below the rate that would occur if importance were assigned only to originality and the establishing of priority (p. 303).
  
 +And this:
 +
 +> The value of humility takes diverse expression. One form is the practice of acknowledging the heavy indebtedness to the legacy of knowledge bequeathed by predecessors. This kind of humility is perhaps best expressed in the epigram Newton made his own: 'If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants' (p. 303).
 +
 +I think //humility as value// might be the most challenged, but this is very complicated. Does the current incarnation of the institution of science value humility? Is there an incentive to be humble or is there an incentive to be self-promotional and self-lauding? Incorporate into analysis.
 +
 +**Note:** The next section discusses the tension between the value of priority in scientific discovery and the value of humility.
 +
 +This is an exceptionally important point:
 +
 +> be it noted that scientific //knowledge// is not the richer or the poorer for having credit given where credit is due; it is the social //institution// of science and individual men of science that would suffer from repeated failures to allocate credit justly (p. 307). 
 +
 +**Note:** On fraud:
 +
 +> The extreme form of deviant behavior in science would of course be the use of fraud to obtain credit for an original discovery (p. 309).
 +
 +And:
 +
 +> the pressure to demonstrate the truth of a theory or to produce a sensational discovery has occasionally led to the faking of scientific evidence (p. 310).
 +
 +This is interesting too, within current context, given that 1) the pressure to produce is probably higher than it's every been in the history of science, and 2) yet there exists a great demand for more transparency and more data re-use, which would make science not only more reproducible (which is the argument for such things)
 +but also more difficult to fake, conceivably at least.
 +
 +Here's why Merton is not too worried about fraud:
 +
 +> Apart from the moral integrity of scientists themselves--and this is, of course, the major basis for honesty in science--there is much in the social organization of science that provides a further compelling basis for honest work. Scientific research is typically, if not always, under the exacting scrutiny of fellow experts, involving, as it usually though not always does, the verifiability of results by others. Scientific inquiry is in effect subject to rigorous policing, to a degree perhaps unparalleled in any other field of human activity (p. 311).
 +
 +**Reflection:** The note on moral integrity is significant, I think, and is often glossed over in arguments about what, for example, peer review is supposed to accomplish. There will be some parts of the work of science that no one will ever be able to confirm was done appropriately. It seems to me that there will always have to be, at some level, some trust involved, no matter how high the stakes.
 +
 +Part 2 of these notes come next.
blog/reading-robert-k-merton-priorities-part-1.1488893548.txt.gz · Last modified: 2017/03/07 08:32 by seanburns