A research program (UK: research programme) is a professional network of scientists conducting basic research. The term was used by philosopher of science Imre Lakatos to blend and revise the normative model of science offered by Karl Popper's falsificationism and the descriptive model of science offered by Thomas Kuhn's normal science. Lakatos found falsificationism impractical and often not practiced, and found normal science—where a paradigm of science, mimicking an exemplar, extinguishes differing perspectives—more monopolistic than actual.
Lakatos found multiple research programmes to coexist, each having a hard core of theories immune to revision, surrounded by a protective belt of malleable theories. A research programme vies against others to be most progressive. Extending the research programme's theories into new domains is theoretical progress, and experimentally corroborating such is empirical progress, always refusing falsification of the research programme's hard core. A research programme might degenerate—lose progressiveness—but later return to progressiveness.
- Imre Lakatos, auth, John Worrall & Gregory Currie, eds, The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes: Volume 1: Philosophical Papers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980)
- William Bechtel, Philosophy of Science: An Overview for Cognitive Science (Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc, 1988), ch 4 "Post-positivist philosophy of science", subch "Lakatosian research programmes", pp 60-63
- Russian Research Programme, University of Warwick, UK
- United States Global Change Research Program
- World Climate Research Programme
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