Many research and consultancy problems in science studies make necessary comparisons of research processes from different fields. This is a tricky task because some relevant properties of research processes (e.g. the time bacteria need to replicate, the predictability of successful measurement or the logical structure of mathematical knowledge) are not amenable to sociological analysis. The sociology of science has struggled with this problem for a long time, and has come up with a variety of solutions including ignoring these factors (radical constructivism, Collins), ‘sociologising’ them (Actor-Network-Theory) and building deductive comparative frameworks (Whitley). Unfortunately, none of these solutions supports comparative empirical research. We present our own pragmatic solution, which starts from a researcher’s actions, searches for properties of research processes that modify these actions, and develop a general description of such factors that holds across all investigated fields. We illustrate this approach with explanations of field-specific responses to scarcity of resources, field-specific practices of integrating teaching and research, and field-specific processes of developing individual research programmes in the early career phase.
About Jochen Gläser and Grit Laudel
Jochen GLÄSER is a senior researcher at the Center for Technology and Society, Technical University Berlin. His major research interests include the sociology of science, organizational sociology and sociological research methods. His current projects address bibliometric methods for measuring the diversity of research, the impact of authority relations on scientific innovation, and responses by German universities to research evaluation.
Grit LAUDEL is a sociologist of science at the Institute of Sociology of the Technical University Berlin. Her empirical research focuses on the impact of institutions on the content of research, i.e. on a question that links the sociology of science to science policy studies.
Jochen Gläser and Grit Laudel
Technical University Berlin
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