The Competitiveness of Nations in a Global Knowledge-Based Economy

Joseph Ben-David † & Teresa A. Sullivan ††

Sociology of Science [1]

Annual Review of Sociology

Volume 1, 1975




The Institutional Origins of Modern Science

Institutional Functions: The Reward System of Science

The Informal Organization of Science

The Politics and the Social Responsibilities of Science


Literature Cited


Sociology of science deals with the social conditions and effects of science, and with the social structures and processes of scientific activity.  Science is a cultural tradition, preserved and transmitted from generation to generation partly because it is valued in its own right, and partly because of its wide technological applications.  Its most distinguishing characteristic is that the primary purpose of its cultivators, the scientists, is to change the tradition through discoveries.  This bears some similarity to the purpose of modern artists and writers.  But innovations in art and literature are accompanied by dissension and conflict, because there are no explicit criteria and accepted procedures to determine whether an innovation is an improvement or deterioration of existing tradition.  Although scientific criteria and procedures are neither perfectly unequivocal nor entirely stable, they are still far superior to criteria used in the evaluation of other cultural products.  The relatively objective, consensual evaluation of discoveries makes science an extreme case of institutionally regulated cultural change.

Sociologists of science have concentrated on this characteristic of science as a tradition and as an institution.  The questions they deal with are: How did this unique tradition of modern science emerge and become institutionalized?  How is it maintained and controlled?  How is research organized?  What determines changes in scientific organization, and how are these changes related to research?

These are wide-ranging problems, difficult to delimit.  Our task of setting limits to this survey has been further complicated by the fact that the sociology of science, as of other cultural fields, is the common interest of several different disciplines.  In our selection we concentrate on issues in which important work has been done during the last five years, but we also include earlier work to the extent that this is necessary as background for current developments.  Relevant work done by non-sociologists is included more or less on the same basis as that of sociologists.

† Joseph Ben-David, Department of Sociology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, and Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637

†† Teresa A. Sullivan, Department of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712

1. This work was aided by a grant from the Ford Foundation.



The Institutional Origins of Modern Science

The question of the emergence and institutionalization of modern science derives from Max Weber’s approach to the study of modern society.

It concerns the conditions under which inquiry into the laws of nature becomes an intellectual end in its own right, in contrast to earlier times when such inquiry was subservient to technological and moral-religious ends.  Merton’s (1938) investigations show the case to be parallel to the rise of modern (“capitalist”) economy in that a religious element played an important role in the process (cf Tenbruck 1974).

Many founders of the 17th century English scientific movement were motivated by personal religious beliefs and values.  The Puritan life style fostered or selected a personality type capable of the rational, methodical conduct presupposed by scientific inquiry.  And Calvinist doctrine, which foreclosed certainty of salvation and satisfaction of the religious yearning to be near to God, suggested the search of God through a rational understanding of creation.

The literature stimulated by Merton’s book has concentrated primarily on the assumed link between Puritanism and science.  Doubts were raised about Merton’s interpretation of religious predisposition and motivation as a positive influence on science (Merton 1957a, Westfall 1958).  Although some Puritanic circles supported science, and many scientists came from Calvinistic backgrounds, official Puritanism was not favorable to science.  In 17th century Scotland and Geneva, where Calvinistic sects actually held power, there was as much opposition to the autonomy of scientific thought as in places ruled by other denominations.  It seems that the positive relationship between Puritanism and science existed only where the Calvinistic clergy lost its control over intellectual life, but where personal religion was still widespread and strong.  Then, scientifically inclined people could use the relative freedom of personal interpretation of the Scriptures to justify their intellectual devotion to science, and even to pursue their scientific inquiries with religious enthusiasm.  This reinterpretation of the Merton hypothesis (Ben-David 1971) seems to be consistent both with the English case, where the movement started as a reaction to a stalemate in the religious controversy between the various sects, and with the upswing of scientific spirit in 18th century Scotland and Geneva and late 19th century United States.

An obscured point in this controversy is the distinction between science as a private pursuit and as a publicly recognized activity, freed from the control of Church or State.  Criticism of Merton’s use of personal documents, which were not representative of all scientists, particularly outside of England, obscured Merton’s principal concern with the movement leading to the foundation of the Royal Society.  This institutional development, which had no precedents or parallels of equal impo­tance outside of England, could not have been explained unless a significant group of people attached to scientific inquiry a moral importance beyond the satisfaction of curiosity.  Perhaps some of the controversy could have been avoided by a distinction between the rise of modern science as a new kind of scientific theory and the emergence of its institutional foundations.


There seems to be some justification for exploring the question parallel to that asked about Weber’s hypothesis on capitalism, namely whether the emergence of the institutions of modern science in the 17th century was really as discontinuous an event with the past as implied in this whole inquiry.  This question has not been asked because the innovations of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and above all, Newton, underlie one of the great myths of modern historical consciousness.  It is taken for granted that these events constituted a Scientific Revolution which did away with the past, and created an entirely new era in science.  As a result there is a dearth of studies of the social forms of science in earlier societies (see however, Goody 1974).

Explanation of the institutional origins of modern science led to attempts at a detailed description of the characteristics of science as an institution regulated by norms (Storer 1966).  Norms implicit in the public conduct of scientists include universalism, emotional neutrality, rationality, individualism, communality, and disinterestedness.

The obvious application of these characteristics was exploring the fit between the norms of science and those of other institutions, in different societies.  Attempts were made to see how the norms of science fitted the institutional arrangements of liberal, socialist, and fascist societies.  But there was no evidence that incongruity between the norms of science and of other social institutions had a deleterious effect on research.

These attempts faltered on the unfounded assumption that the relationship between the different institutional norms had to be direct and linear, such as “the greater the congruence between the norms of science and those of other institutions, the greater the likelihood that science will thrive in a society.”  But institutional insulation can compensate for incongruence of institutional norms.  This is particularly likely to occur in scientific research, which involves only a small fraction of the population and is by its own norms relatively “value neutral.”  Furthermore, normative congruence is not a simple variable, for there may be overt or covert disagreement about norms.

An investigation of the changes in the relative standing of different countries in world science has yielded more positive results (Ben-David 1971).  At question was the rise of support for science in England during the second half of the 17th century and in France during the second half of the 18th century, and the relative decline following these periods in both countries.  The common element present was scientistic movements oriented to political and social reform.  For these movements, science was a model for attaining progress, objectivity, and consensus in general.  Throughout most of the period, these movements opposed autocratic regimes intent on the preservation of religious and political traditions incongruent with the norms of science.  For pragmatic reasons, autocratic rulers were willing to adopt the recommendations of the scientistic groups to the extent of supporting academies and individual scientists.  Thus natural science was supported, although on different grounds, both by the rulers and by their opponents.  This conferred on science a prestige unequalled by any other intellectual endeavor.  But following the revolutions in both countries, the scientistic opposition gained power, and the enthusiasm for


science waned.  Intellectuals became more interested in practical reforms, technological applications, and literary and artistic culture (Robert Fox 1973).  Thus science received relatively more support in a situation in which its norms were partially incongruent with the prevailing social norms than in situations of complete congruence.

This explanation is consistent with the support given to science by authoritarian regimes of this century.  The relative ability of science to insulate itself from political and ideological issues, and the regime’s need for scientific advice and know-how, confer on scientists in these countries a degree of freedom denied others.  This tends to make science a particularly attractive occupation in such societies.


Institutional Functions: The Reward System of Science [2]

The most important result of the description of science in terms of moral norms is the investigation of the reward system.  Merton (1957b) noted the apparent contradiction between the norm of communality which requires scientists to publish their results and regard them as the property of mankind, and their sensitivity and frequent selfishness concerning priority in discoveries.  He suggested that the proper recognition of discovery is a necessary condition for the maintenance of communality, since without recognition scientists could not defend their intellectual property.  There would be no incentive to publish and science would not be maintained as an institutionalized public activity.

This hypothesis created a theoretically meaningful basis for the empirical study of the allocation of rewards.  If the process of allocation has the importance attached to it by the hypothesis, one would expect the functioning of the reward system to play a central role in the life of science.

This suggestion was followed in a series of investigations using either questionnaires or citation counts.  The latter method considers the frequency of citation of a scientist’s papers as the amount of recognition given to him. [3]  The Science Citation

2. The word “reward” is somewhat misleading, since it may imply that the purpose of scientific activity is to obtain honors and material rewards.  No such implication is intended here.  Scientists have a variety of motives, and most of them are genuinely interested in research and discovery.  But their behavior is inevitably influenced by the mechanisms of social reward.  In particular, the possibility that someone else may get the credit due to himself is as unacceptable to a scientist as to anyone else.  For a critique of the emphasis of reward, see Gustin 1973.

3. Perfunctory citing is discussed in Michael J. Moravcsik and Poovanalingam Murugesan, “Studies of the Nature of Citation Measures. I: Some Results on the Function and Quality of Citation” and Poovanalingam Murugesan and Michael J. Moravcsik, “Studies of the Nature of Citation Measures H: Variation in the Nature of Citation from Journal to Journa!,” unpublished manuscripts from the Institute of Theoretical Sciences, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, 1974.  The validity of citation as a quality index is investigated in Naomi Cohen-Shanin, “Innovation and Citation,” unpublished manuscript, The National Council for Research and Development, Prime Minister’s Office, and the Department of Sociology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, November 1974.


Index makes possible the study of citation counts for whole populations across disciplines.

The first questions investigated within this context were competitiveness and concern with priority among scientists.  Competitiveness is most prevalent when widespread consensus exists among scientists about the importance of problems and when large numbers of scientists work simultaneously on the same problems, as in physics, experimental biology, and chemistry.  There is some variation among disciplines in the manifestation of competition, which is related to productivity in research (Hagstrom 1967, Collins 1968).

Another question derived from the hypothesis about the importance of reward in science is the extent to which the system operates in accordance with the norms of science.  In a series of studies summarized by Cole & Cole (1973), they conclude that for the physical sciences, the evaluation of research closely approaches the universalistic ideal.  Almost no work of consequence escapes publication, and high quality work is recognized regardless of the author’s extrascientific characteristics.  But lower quality work receives more attention if it is authored by a noted scientist.  Essentially similar findings are reported for Britain by Gaston (1973) for high energy physicists, and by Blume & Sinclair (1973) for chemists.  These empirical findings conclusively contradict the criticism of these norms as idealizations of the behavior of scientists (Barnes & Dolby 1970, Dolby 1971, King 1971, Mulkay & Williams 1971, Brush 1974).  The critics fail to distinguish institutional norms from personal behavior.  Mitroff (1974) attempts to take this distinction into account, and to interpret apparently deviant behavior as the result of “counternorms.”  But apart from the logical inacceptability of the concept “counternorm,” the fact that scientists are committed to their theories and defend them against evidence so long as the evidence is only plausible but not clinching, is no contradiction to the effectiveness of the norms.  The mechanisms of social control in science work on the whole according to the institutional norms in spite of individual deviations.

Thus there is a logical continuity between the historical studies of the institutionalization of modern science in the 17th century, the descriptions of the institutionalized norms of science, and the study of reward systems in present day science.

While the institutional hypothesis has been used in all this work, it has not necessarily guided the work.  The questions asked by sociologists have often been determined by changing public issues and not by theoretical problems.  Such questions as how Nazi ideology would affect science, discussed in the early 1940s, and whether there is sexual, racial, or class discrimination in science today are prominent in the literature more for their topical than for their theoretical importance (Cole & Cole 1973, Zuckerman & Cole 1975).

On the other hand, a theoretically central question in the early investigation of Cole & Cole (1967, 1968), the relation of reward to the quality and quantity of research, has not been consistently pursued.  This question can be investigated through differences among disciplines.  Hagstrom (1965) suggested that the absence of, an effective reward system in the highly theoretical and specialized field of mathematics is apt to create loss of morale and loss of direction (“anomie”) in this field.  Zuckerman & Merton (1971), in a discussion of the institutionalization of


journal editing and refereeing, note that the position of referee is a form of reward.  They analyzed the archives of Physical Review and found that the referees tend to be of a higher rank than the authors, at least partly because expertise is correlated with prestige.  The work of high-ranking authors is more likely to be evaluated by the editor alone.  An interesting difference they note is the much higher rejection rates in more humanistically oriented journals.  Presumably this is due to a lower level of consensus in these disciplines.  Also the reward system may be more diffuse in some areas.  For example, Klima (1972) and Ben-David (1974) point out that discontinuity in social science research is due to the fact that social scientists also write for a broad public, and so they move from subject to subject according to the swings of public opinion and not to the internal logic of their own inquiry.  The reward system may also vary by countries; Krantz (1970, 1971a) shows that there are serious barriers to international communication in psychology.


The Organization of Science: Formal Organization

Formal scientific organization ranges from laboratories, departments, and institutions to central national or international scientific agencies.  Informal organization includes teams, research groups (“invisible colleges”), disciplinary and interdisciplinary elites, and, on a most comprehensive level, the whole scientific community.  Ongoing research has not crystallized around the study of different organizational structures, but around a variety of substantive problems.  These include the function of the academies in 17th and 18th century science and of the universities in the 19th century, the emergence and support of a system of research organizations in the 20th century, and the social structure of networks and groups involved in the rise of new specialities.  We shall follow these substantive clusters of literature and try to group them under broad categories of organizational structure, starting with historical and comparative studies of formal organization.

The first group of studies to be considered deal with 17th and 18th century scientific academies.  Many studies provide information on the social characteristics of the members, on the motivation of the founders and supporters, and on the way the academies functioned.  Hahn (1971) uses explicit sociological categories to study the social functions of science in the academies.  His most important finding is that the major organizational function of the Paris Academy of Sciences was evaluating and publishing individual contributions, somewhat analogously to present day refereeing.  Research had few uses or resources and no “research programs” encouraged sustained coordination and cooperation.  On the other hand, many irreconcilable theories and doctrines threatened the unity of the scientific enterprise.  In performing its function of supreme arbiter in scientific matters with restraint and neutrality towards untestable doctrines, the Paris Academy of Sciences maintained a measure of consensus concerning scientific procedure and a sense of distributive justice.

The academies did not organize scientific work - it remained individualistic and unorganized.  Their function was facilitating scientific communication and administering the reward system of science.  Therefore, their functional equivalents in subse-


quent ages were not universities and research institutes, but scientific journals and meetings.

The determinants of differences in the structure and the functions of the acade­mies of different countries, or those of the metropoles in contrast to those in the provinces, and the effect these differences had on the kind and style of scientific research in various countries remain to be explored.

Due to the increasing importance of university research, the rise of broadly based societies for the advancement of science or of disciplines, and the emergence of specialized and general scientific journals, no central institution can serve as the focus for the study of science organization in the 19th century.  However, the development of scientific higher education and the professionalization of research are central themes for such study.

The cost of research until the last decades of the century was relatively low.  Provided that it was believed that professionals should receive up-to-date scientific training, research could be charged as overhead for training professionals, especially in medicine, chemistry, and even high school teaching.  Given this belief, competent scientists were needed as teachers at the universities which trained professionals.  Therefore, the question of how organization affected research in the 19th century can usually be reduced to the question of how the teaching of science was organized, and its effect on the growth of professional research.

There have been a number of studies of the development of scientific education and professionalization in different countries (Morrell 1972a, b; Sanderson 1972, Crosland 1975).  These are mainly historical case studies designed to reconstruct the events leading to the institution of courses of scientific study and/or the emergence of training and career opportunities for scientists.

Attempts to explore the sociological regularities in these developments suggest that competition for reputation among universities or government education agencies creates both a rising demand for and supply of researchers.  This competition enables scientific societies, or lobbies of scientists, such as the Gesselschaft deutscher Naturforscher und Arzte, to persuade governments to establish new chairs and recognize new fields (Pfetsch & Zloczower 1973).  Higher education departments of governments in the German states, and university presidents in the United States, were particularly inclined to accept scientific reputation as a criterion for appointing professors and evaluating institutions.  Reputation was a relatively objective, almost measurable yardstick of excellence (Ben-David 1972).  Contrary to accepted views, academic self-government was not favorable to the research emphasis as a criterion for appointments, because self-governing groups of academics tended to be influenced by local loyalties and by the congeniality of the candidates (Turner 1971).

International competition was probably the major force behind the successive reforms of higher education and the establishment of facilities for training researchers in England and France (von Gizycki 1973).  But competition had its greatest effect in decentralized systems, including the German and American systems of higher education.  It is probably due to this internal competition that these two systems have succeeded each other as centers of world science (Ben-David 1971).


The development of scientific journals, societies, and congresses in late 18th and 19th century science has received only sporadic attention (Thackray 1971, Shapin 1972, Pfetsch 1974).  More systematic attention has been paid to the relationships between science and industry, agriculture, and medicine, and the support of research (MacLeod 1970, 1971, Miller 1970, Rosenberg 1971, Morrell 1973).  But the large scale support of research apart from teaching, and often serving some practical purpose, only began in the last decades of the 19th century, and became an important aspect of the social structure of science only in the 20th century.

New structures and mechanisms arose for the support of research at the end of the 19th century, including research grants to individual university scientists and to the universities themselves; special research institutions both outside and inside universities; and research laboratories in industrial firms, hospitals, or government departments.  This expansion and diversification, though based on the assumption that research benefitted industrial technology, has not led to the transfer of research to the relevant industries, for only a few firms could afford the risk of financing unpredictable long range research operations.  In most countries, the majority of research and development is financed by governments or foundations.

Consequently, science is supported, mainly in the expectation of economic benefits, by a financial and organizational complex of government and other nonprofit agencies.  Economic research indicates that there are such benefits, but it is difficult to determine how these benefits accrue from research and how cost-benefit ratios vary with different levels of investment and in different industries (National Science Foundation 1971).

One question investigated by social scientists is the relationship between scientific discoveries and technological inventions.  These studies (Jewkes, Sawers & Stillerman 1969; National Science Foundation 1969, 1973) suggest that basic discoveries rarely lead to technological inventions.  Inventions occur in response to economic demand (Schmookler 1966).  The inventors may utilize available scientific knowledge, or occasionally turn to researchers for the solution to certain scientific problems.  Thus industry judges the effectiveness of science organization by the ease and frequency of communication between managers and scientists, and not necessarily by any particular type of formal organization (Katz & Ben-David 1975).  These studies conclude that science and technology are distinct processes, each developing according to its own rationale and mutually influencing each other in various ways.  D. S. Price’s (1965) comparison of scientific and technological publications and citations shows that while scientific publications are a more or less complete reflection of the work of scientists, this is not at all the case in technology.

This leaves unanswered the question of how science and technology influence each other.  Current studies have concentrated on the effect of science on technology, but a theoretically significant investigation would have to consider influences in both directions [4] (see also Mansfield 1968, Thackray, 1970, Cardwell 1972).

4. There is a more balanced treatment among sociological historians of science; see Rossi (1970), Musson & Robinson (1969).


Despite the difficulty in conceptualizing how science contributes to technology, research is supported for its potential practical uses, presumably on the assumption that the consequences of withdrawing support would probably be more deleterious than continuing it on a trial and error basis.  As a result, social scientists of science face the dilemma of trying to interpret and make recommendations on a situation which they can only partially understand, or of refraining from dealing with the problem altogether.

Attempts at interpreting such a situation are limited to establishing criteria for choosing between alternatives.  Thus most of the literature in this field is normative, dealing with such questions as how to determine the proper level of support for science in general, or for different fields and kinds (basic vs applied) of science (Shils 1968, Dobrow 1970, Krauch 1970b, Price 1971; Kroeber & Steiner 1974, Rabkine 1974).

The question is the extent to which it is possible to go beyond analyses of policy decisions to a theoretical understanding of the place and the functioning of science in contemporary society.  There is a small, but growing volume of largely historical literature relevant to this subject (Gilpin 1968, Orlans 1968, Pfetsch 1970, Schroeder-Gudehus 1972, Forman 1974).

International organizations including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and UNESCO have undertaken comprehensive surveys and studies of the science organization and policies in different countries.  There has been only a single attempt to use this information for a comparative study of the present-day organization of science in Western Europe (OECD 1972, 1973).  The findings are preliminary but indicate that in the course of this century there emerged in all of these countries a set of typical institutions for the support of research.  In each country, individual grants from central agencies supplement university research budgets, and government research institutes engage in nondirected research.  Some of them, such as France and Germany, also have a considerable number of nonuniversity research institutes in pure science, and there are differences in the extent to which governments engage in industrial research in addition to research done in particular firms.

The existence of a system of pure research institutes parallel to the universities seems to be the result of inefficient functioning of the universities.  Both the French and German university systems tend to be politicized and resist innovations, thus providing an inhospitable environment for researchers.  In Britain and the smaller Western European nations, universities provide a more congenial atmosphere for researchers, making institutes for pure research unnecessary.

Governments would seem to take up research tasks where industry contacts with universities are ineffective or where the industrial firms are too small to organize research themselves, but are of sufficient number and size to utilize it.  The results of these direct interventions of governments in research are still to be evaluated.

There is a tendency to think of research, and to support it, as a distinct sector of the economy; nevertheless it is difficult to maintain organizations, or even careers, devoted to full time research.  On the whole the most successful organizations have


been the universities.  In applied research some very large industrial laboratories, or small specialized firms in a few science-based industries (Shimshoni 1970), are successful.  Organizations engaged sole!y in research have a tendency to become obsolete, and are apt to lose touch both with the developments in science and with industrial demands.  Innovation is difficult to organize or to engage in full time.

But university research is only possible in relatively few institutions with adequate funds and students capable of participating in research.  In many countries the universities are mass institutions whose teachers, many of whom are not competent to do research, teach students, most of whom are unable to benefit from training in advanced research.  Besides this, it is too expensive to promote research in such systems on an egalitarian basis.  In these countries pure research has to move out from the universities to special research institutes.

Similarly, in most countries there are no firms with the organizational capability of conducting effective applied research, especially in some small scale industries as agriculture.  As a result, applied research tends to be organized in separate research institutes which, as has been pointed out, are difficult to maintain on a high level of effectiveness (see also Brooks 1973, Robinson 1973, Townes 1973).

The study of research laboratories and research teams began with the question of the optimal organization of research work.

High levels of motivation were found among technical people who were given considerable responsibility for a project, but who also received information, encouragement, and support from their supervisors.  To the extent that a project director superior may be considered a “leader,” these findings tended to confirm the hypothesis of Lippitt & White (1943) about styles of leadership.

In science, however, “leadership” might mean merely the administration of the laboratory, or it might include detailed problem-setting and technical direction.  The latter threatens individual autonomy, especially among PhD scientists and in basic research settings.  Pelz & Andrews (1966) separated these concepts in a study of 1131 scientists and engineers in 11 government, university, and industrial laboratories.  They identified as variables individual autonomy and coordination of the laboratory group.

In loosely coordinated laboratories, high individual motivation or stimulation were necessary for achievement.  But high autonomy did not necessarily indicate high motivation or stimulation; on the contrary, it might indicate isolation and narrow specialization.  In fact, highly autonomous scientists in loosely coordinated settings performed below average.  On the other hand, high autonomy and tight coordination were also unsatisfactory, possibly because the rigidities of tight coordination frustrate autonomous scientists.  High autonomy scientists performed best, with broader interests, in middle-range coordination settings.  Frequent communication among researchers and even “intellectual tension” may compensate for the isolating effects of high autonomy when coordination is loose.

Another explanation for the difference between university, government, and industrial laboratories may be that they engage in different kinds of work.  That done in research institutes and industry may involve large scale work which requires more


coordination, but differences in the need for coordination may also exist within each type of organization (Weinberg 1967, Hetzler 1970, Krauch 1970a, Swatez 1970).

Recent studies of laboratory teams have concentrated on the division of labor and patterns of interaction within teams as identified by sociometric techniques.  The studies of the reward system in science suggest that highly productive scientists should have high status within their work group, and the two-step theory of communication suggests that high status persons should also be communication leaders.  In a study of two research and development organizations, Allen & Cohen (1969) asked questions about social relations and the flow of technical information within the laboratory.  Those chosen most frequently for technical discussions had more exposure to technical sources outside the laboratory, held significantly more patents, and published significantly more papers than their colleagues.

It is difficult to determine from these findings alone whether the gatekeepers received more information from the outside because they were more productive, or whether they were more productive because they were up-to-date on developments outside their own laboratories.  Earlier work with a contradictory finding (Allen 1966) had shown that the performance of government and industry scientists was inversely related to the number of personal contacts made outside the laboratory.  The explanation suggested is that the average or poor scientists seek information because their work is not going well, while productive scientists both seek and receive information required for their work and are sought out by others interested in their results.  This hypothesis (Allen & Cohen 1969) needs testing.

Another group of studies deals with the effects of organization on job satisfaction.  The hypothesis guiding most of these studies has been that the ideal work organization for scientists is that which allows them freedom and discretion in choosing research topics, executing the research, and publishing the results.  The preference of scientists for academic work where such conditions prevail, and for similar conditions in industry, is interpreted as evidence supporting the hypothesis.  However, this interpretation is difficult to reconcile with Pelz and Andrews’ findings that high individual autonomy is not always the optimal condition for productivity in research.  It is unlikely that conditions conducive to satisfaction differ from those conducive to productivity, but the differences in satisfaction may result from differences between universities and industry in the rank and level of work.

Furthermore, few researchers engage only in research.  Academic scientists also teach, industrial scientists may also be engaged in production, and all may be doing administrative work.  The question, as shown by Parsons & Platt (1973), is what determines the preferences for, and what are the results of, different types of role combinations.  This question has been widely discussed concerning academics (Halsey & Trow 1971, Bock 1972, Light 1974), but much less concerning industrial scientists (Kaplan 1965).  Studies done in England (Cotgrove & Box 1970, Duncan 1972) have shown that dissatisfaction among industrial scientists may not be due primarily to the restrictions imposed on the scientists by the nature and the goals of industrial research, but by inadequate staff-line relationships within industrial firms.


The last aspect of the formal organization of science to be reviewed is the scientific career.  The determinants of career mobility of scientists have been studied recently by Crane (1970), Hargens & Hagstrom (1967), Hargens (1969), and Hargens & Farr (1973).

Eminent scientists tend to have earned their degrees in distinguished departments.  Among Nobel Prize winners, a large number were the students of earlier laureates (Zuckerman 1970).  Rank of doctoral department is correlated with rank of department of the first job and of the current job (Hargens & Hagstrom 1967; Cole & Cole 1973).

The question is whether this career pattern is due to the advantage of a good start at first class institutions, or to merit reflected in the quality of work.  The bulk of the evidence indicates that the main condition is merit (Gaston 1969, Hagstrom 1971).  It has been suggested that institutional inequalities in resources amplify the inequalities of talent (Allison & Stewart 1974), but the evidence for this is equivocal.  The term “cumulative advantage,” currently much in use, is misleading, given the absence of satisfactory measures of the “initial advantages.”  This would be a significant finding only if applied to scientists of equal ability.  A study of a relatively nonhierarchical university system - for example, that of Germany - would provide an interesting comparison.

Of course, the theoretically important question for a sociology of science is not whether the scientific career fits some model of social equality, but the question of how different types of career structures are related to scientific productivity and innovation (see also Clark 1968, Mulkay 1972).  Zloczower (1973) has shown that the chair system of the 19th century German universities encouraged attempts at founding new disciplines, and that the existence of a hierarchy of universities competing for excellence created opportunities for mobile people to obtain recognition for their speciality as a separate discipline.  Clark’s (1973) work describing the system of academic patronage prevailing in France during the same time shows how such a system, structurally inimical to innovation, could under certain conditions be used in launching and institutionalizing a disciplinary innovation.


The Informal Organization of Science

Informal communication, cooperation, and competition play an important role in scientific work.  Sociological study in recent years has concentrated on the study of specialty groups and networks (“invisible colleges”).  One model hypothesizes that the number of scientists in a field is a function of the number of remaining discoveries in the field (Holton 1962, D. S. Price 1963, Crane 1972).  This suggests that every subfield exhibits a typical pattern of growth and decline.  The early influential scientists in the field accelerate the rate of growth by providing resources and training for students.  As successful ideas dwindle, or become difficult to test, fewer scientists are recruited to the field and other members leave it.  Thus, the demography of the field is linked to its intellectual potential.  New discoveries originate subfields, but the reason why such discoveries lead to the splitting off of new groups rather than to continuous growth of existing fields is that when the personnel of a


field grows beyond a certain limit, communication among them becomes increasingly ineffective - hence the need to split into subspecialties (see also Mulkay 1972, Toulmin 1972).

A second model tries to explain the occurrence of innovations.  It considers the rise of new fields as deliberate creations based on views and ideas inconsistent with the traditions existing within a field.  This is particularly the case when the discoveries giving rise to the new specialty are fundamental innovations.  This model has been derived from Kuhn’s (1970) influential book on scientific revolutions, which asserts that revolutionary changes in science are accompanied by upheavals of the scientific community, namely crises, conflicts, and alienation and the emergence of new groups representing the new ideas.  According to this theory, “fundamental innovations” requiring conceptual reorganization of a field would occur similarly to religious or political revolutions, namely through the emergence of ideologically united, intensively solidary groups, presumably with charismatic leadership. [5]

The empirical investigation of these hypothesized group phenomena proceeded in three different ways.  Historical case studies of innovations (not necessarily revolutionary ones) have paid increasing attention to the personal and social characteristics of the innovators and of the innovating group.  One apparently frequent type of innovation is due to “role hybridization,” (Ben-David & Collins 1966) the moving of one or several innovators from a technically and theoretically more to a less advanced field, such as chemists into biology (Kohler 1971) or physicists into biochemistry (Law 1973).  Another frequent type of innovation is serendipity, when a researcher stumbles on an important discovery by accident (Mulkay & Edge 1972).  Pathbreaking discoveries which occur, as hypothesized by Kuhn, in response to search for the solution to outstanding problems of great significance seem to be quite rare.  Even where there are such situations, the actual discovery may occur by serendipity.

However, there is no evidence even in these cases that the discovery is preceded by acute crisis, alienation, and conflict.  The only significant case of such symptoms is the history of quantum theory in the 1920s, but Forman (1971) has shown that the much advertised crisis of physics was a response by some physicists to the general malaise of those times in Germany, and not to the internal state of physics.  Nor is there evidence of irresoluble conflicts attending fundamental innovations.  Scientists jealously defend their views, and are willing to stretch the evidence in their own favor as far as possible (Brush 1974), but there is a point when all agree that the evidence is unequivocal (Forman 1971).

The next step in the development of new fields, the emergence of a network of people identifying themselves with it and deliberately cultivating it, is a lengthy process.  It requires the emergence of a fruitful and sufficiently challenging example of doing research, but this does not seem to be a sufficient condition.  There has to be in addition a motivation to identify with, and persevere in, the new field.  This may be due to lack of career opportunities in the established fields (Zloczower 1973);

5. These sociological implications are only suggested by Kuhn.  They have been spelled out explicitly by Griffith & Mullins (1972).


to a perception that the new field contains greater intellectual opportunities than the ones from which its members originate (Ben-David & Collins 1966); to an intuitive belief that the new kind of research will lead to some strikingly great discovery, such as understanding of the mechanism of heredity by the use of protein-crystallography (Law 1973), or obtaining a new picture of the universe through radio astronomy (Mulkay & Edge 1972); or to the striking practical utility of an innovation, such as was the case with bacteriology (Ben-David 1960).

A sufficiently challenging and promising technique, which can be effectively transmitted in training and applied to potentially important phenomena, [6] seems to be necessary for the emergence of a viable specialty.  This supports the general view that scientific innovations tend to become the basis of self-perpetuating traditions of groups.  But it contradicts the hypothesis that these traditions are the result of basic (“revolutionary”) conceptual reorganizations.  In fact, in most of our cases the emergence of a specialty group has preceded, not followed the basic conceptual innovation.  This stands to reason, because able people will be more attracted to a promising field in which conceptual innovations are still to be made than to one in which these innovations have already been made (for a particularly interesting case, see Fisher 1973). [7]

These studies of the rise of new research groups need to be distinguished from explorations of the internal structure and function of these groups.  The intellectual influence within these groups has been charted in two ways: by patterns of social interaction and by citation patterns.

Sociometric choices made by scientists in rural sociology (Crane 1972) and sleep and dream researchers (Crawford 1971) show that researchers outside the area received over half of the choices, and in finite mathematics, about one third (Crane, 1972).  So “invisible colleges” are not closed in the sense of being impervious to outside influence.  Within the invisible college, the rate of interaction is much more intense, but not every researcher is in personal contact with every other researcher in the same area, and influence is mediated by written work and not necessarily through personal contact.  These studies indicate that specialty groups are not closed solidary groups but networks with many outside ties and with shifting membership.

This is confirmed by the study of patterns of citation.  Measures of cross-citation among journals have been used to chart a hierarchy of journals within a field and the journals which serve as “nodes of interchange” between disciplines (Narin, Carpenter & Berlt 1972).  Certain journals, such as Physical Review, are preeminent influences upon their disciplines, and there are journals which connect several fields.

A different method, co-citation, or the joint citation of several papers, has been used to identify the seminal papers which originate a subfield (Small 1973, Small & Griffith 1974).  There may be a lag in exploiting the initial papers, but once the

6. This is part of Kuhn’s concept of “paradigm,” but that also included many other things (Kuhn 1970, postscript).

7. The attempt of Griffith and Mullins (1972) to find “revolutionary” specialty groups has only one case, that of operant conditioning in psychology (Krantz, 1971 b), which seems to fit the revolutionary description.  But even here the case is not entirely clear.


specialty is growing, the rate of citation and co-citation may be used as a measure of the relative activity of the area.  These co-citation studies provide a means to trace the emergence of the specialty, its initial growth into a relatively closed network of papers, and its opening up and eventual dissolution in the broader field.

That interpersonal networks tend to be rather loose and that citation networks analyzed by co-citation show more closure are not contradictory.  Once a subject is very narrowly defined, the number of papers dealing with it becomes limited.  This is not to say that the actual scientific contacts of those active in the field are similarly restricted.  No sociological interpretation can be given to the co-citation studies at this point.  Such interpretation will be possible only when these citation studies are directly related to the study of actual personal contacts.


The Politics and the Social Responsibilities of Science

The large scale support and the widespread use of science for military and industrial purposes have made scientific matters into frequently debated and fought over political issues.  D. K. Price (1965) discussed the difficulty of including science in the system of political checks and balances.  The relative inaccessibility of scientific knowledge and the contradiction between the claim of the scientific community for autonomy and its reliance on public funds for support (see also Orlans 1968) form part of the problem.  His conclusion is that the checks and balances have actually worked, and are likely to work in the future as long as scientists pursue their own goals, and do not claim (or are not given) authority in political matters.

In the last few years many social scientists have tended to believe that as a matter of fact scientists have been influenced in their work by extraneous political interests (Ravetz 1971, Salomon 1973).  However, the identification of scientists with ruling political, industrial, and military interests, based on anecdotal evidence, finds no support in empirical investigations of the political behavior of scientists.  These investigations have been concerned mainly with academic scientists in the USA and Britain.  They show academic scientists (Bidwell 1970, Halsey & Trow 1971, Lipset 1972, Lipset & Ladd 1972, Ladd & Lipset 1972) to be politically left of the center, and generally critical of government, a tendency more marked among elite scientists than among the rank and file but varying considerably from field to field (see also Friedrich 1970).

An aspect of the behavior of scientists which may be relevant to scientists’ social responsibilities has been investigated in studies of medical experiments with humans.  These studies are important in that they deal with actual behavior, and not only with attitudes.  These studies do not indicate that scientists subordinate their medical responsibility to their scientific interests, but they show an awareness of the problem, attempt to involve the patients in the experiments, and usually adherence to ethical standards (Barber et al 1973, Renee Fox & Swazey 1974).

Of particular interest are the findings of Barber et al that the experimenters least successful as scientists are the ones most prone to unethical behavior towards human subjects.  Although these findings cannot be generalized to researchers who are not


medical doctors and to conflicts involving other than medical responsibilities, they show how the problems raised by the literature on the social responsibility of scientists can be investigated empirically.



The growth of the sociology of science has been very rapid in the last few years, particularly in Europe where the field had been practically nonexistent before.  Mulkay’s (1975) survey of the field in Britain includes 16 references for the period 1950-1968 as compared to 47 references for 1969-1973, and one in West Germany has 76 items for the period 1900-1968 and 70 items for 1969-1974 (Klima & Viehoff 1975; see also Mikulinski 1974).

However, these figures exaggerate the real growth by including a great deal of polemical literature on the validity, objectivity, and the morality of science.  The literature stating and restating the opposing views cannot be counted as a contribution to scholarship.  But even if these polemics are discounted, there still has been a growth of the field.  Some empirical investigations, such as those intended to test whether scientists act according to their institutionalized norms, whether scientific controversies were decided by evidence or by prejudice, or whether scientists have conservative or liberal views, were actually suggested or stimulated by the controversy.

Both negative and positive attitudes have stimulated the growth of the sociology of science.  The decisive factor has been widespread interest in contrast to apathy toward science.


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