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Reading Robert K Merton

date: 2013-09-18 08:16

I will be closely revisiting some writings by Robert K. Merton–specifically the following three pieces, in the following order–in The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations 1):

  • “The Normative Structure of Science”
  • “Priority in Scientific Discovery”
  • “The Matthew Effect in Science”

Update on October 23, 2013: I'm adding this piece, which comes after the Matthew effect article / chapter:

  • “Institutionalized Patterns of Evaluation in Science”

The introduction in the above book, written by Norman W. Storer, is a good overview of Merton's work. Although I have read these works before, I did so over the course of a couple years. Reading them again in this order will help shape some of my thoughts on the matter.

About the “The Normative Structure of Science,” Storer writes,

In this paper appeared the comprehensive statement of ideal norms to which scientists are oriented in their relations with each other: universalism, communism, organized skepticism, and disinterestedness“ (p. xviii).

Regrading the criticism of these ideals, Storer writes,

Criticism, however, has been concentrated not so much on its having mistaken the components of this ethos ethos of science, but on the question whether these norms in fact guide scientific everyday behavior (p. xviii).

Pages xviii and on are good for additional explanation.

Note: My PeerJ research, for example, is a beginning look at whether the open access, open science, etc. call to arms aligns itself to or deviates itself from this *ethos of science*.

Yet, despite the headway made with “The Normative Structure of Science” and other works, Storer writes,

Merton had already outlined the normative structure of science and had suggested how the four norms interact with each other in a functioning whole. But there was no clearly defined, distinctive source of “energy” in the system–no sense of why it should “move” (p. xxiii).

Then comes the “Priority in Scientific Discovery.” Further down on that page, Storer writes,

Here was the energy that could drive the system, the distinctively institutionalized motivation that could account for scientists' orientations to the ethos of science and for their willingness to accept its often demanding strictures (p. xxiii).

Then I will tie this together with “The Matthew Effect in Science.” There is a particular part in this piece that touches not just on an *ethos of science* but on an aesthetics of science, which I believe may be profoundly important. This is the cornerstone of my upcoming ASIS&T panel presentation 2). I'll link to the full abstract when it comes online.

It was nice to read Norman W. Storer's intro. Scholarly introductions, book reviews, etc., can often be underrated.

Merton, Robert K. (1973). The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

blog/reading-robert-k-merton.txt · Last modified: 2019/06/04 09:46 by seanburns