Instruments of Commerce and Knowledge: Probe Microscopy, 1980-2000
42 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2006 Last revised: 15 Sep 2021
Date Written: November 2006
Longstanding debates about the role of the university in national culture and the global economy have entered a new phase in the past decade in most industrialized, and several industrializing, countries. One important focus of this debate is corporate involvement in academic scientific research. Proponents of the academic capitalism say that corporate involvement makes the university leaner, more agile, better able to respond to the needs of the day. Critics say that corporate involvement leaves society without the independent, critical voices traditionally lodged in universities. I argue that a science and technology studies perspective, using case studies of research communities, can push this debate in directions envisioned by neither proponents nor critics. I use the development and commercialization of the scanning tunneling microscope and the atomic force microscope as an example of how research communities continually redraw the line between corporate and academic institutions.
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