Science Studies and Sociology
Leydesdorff, L. (2022). Science Studies and Sociology. ISSI Newsletter, 18(1), 11-15.
6 Pages Posted: 12 May 2022
Date Written: April 14, 2022
On the occasion of celebrating “100 years of sociology in the Netherlands” with a theme issue of Sociologischl Magazine, the editors of this journal invited me to discuss the development of science and technology studies (STS) in relation to sociology. STS has been developed at some distance from sociology; their relation is asymmetrical. From the disciplinary perspective of sociology, the study of scientific research can be considered as an application; for STS, sociology is a discipline-based frame of reference, like economics or the philosophy of science.
Merton (1942) specified the institutional conditions for “academic” scientific practices such as the CUDOS norms of science. Κυδος is classical Greek for a watchman, and serves here as an acronym for the norms of science: Communalism, Universalism, Disinterestedness, and Organized Scepticism. By focusing on institutional dynamics, Merton’s sociology of science accorded with Popper’s ( 1959) philosophy of science. Pre-war sociologists of knowledge like Simmel and Mannheim were overshadowed by Merton’s institutional sociology of science. Popper proposed to distinguish between the context of discovery and the context of validation. The development of the content of science—the context of validation—could then be considered as the subject of the history and philosophy of science, while sociology focuses on how institutions and practices are shaped in science and by science. From Popper’s perspective,, the study of the latter contexts can be left to sociologists. This division of labour between sociology and philosophy in studying the sciences was increasingly abandoned with the more recent development of STS (e.g., Lakatos & Musgrave, 1970).
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