Science studies

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Science studies is an interdisciplinary research area that seeks to situate scientific expertise in a broad social, historical, and philosophical context. It is concerned with the history of scientific disciplines, the interrelationships between science and society, and the alleged covert purposes that underlie scientific claims. While it is critical of science, it holds out the possibility of broader public participation in science policy issues.[citation needed]

The word science is used in the sense of natural, social and formal sciences - areas of research that tend toward positivism. The word "science" thus explicitly excludes the humanities and cultural studies, which tend toward relativism. Thus, while the topic of research in "science studies" is the sciences, the main approaches to research come from the humanities (e.g. history) (hence the word "study" in the title, rather than for example "theory"). Science studies scholars study (investigate) specific phenomena such as technological milieus, laboratory culture, science policy, and the role of the university.


Science studies can be understood as a moment in a steadily widening conversation, in which scholars with interests in the social, historical, and philosophical analysis of science and technology have achieved a succession of wider integrations[citation needed]. Numerous disciplines have contributed to this conversation, but two stand out: the history and philosophy of science and the sociology of scientific knowledge.

Drawing on the work of Thomas Samuel Kuhn, especially his Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), history and philosophy of science united scholars in both disciplines who shared interests in not only the history of science, but also its philosophical underpinnings. Kuhn's work established that the history of science was not necessarily a linear succession of discoveries, which bring us closer to the truth, but rather a succession of paradigms, which are broader, socio-intellectual constructs that determine which types of truth claims are permissible.

Meanwhile, the sociology of scientific knowledge developed at the University of Edinburgh, where David Bloor and his colleagues developed what has been termed the Strong Programme, which was based on what Bloor called the empirical programme of relativism and the principle of symmetry. In brief, the Strong Programme holds that science studies scholars should remain neutral with respect to the truth claims science makes: they should explain the success or failure of a scientific theory in the same terms. According to the Strong Programme, the outcome of all scientific controversies—successful or not—should be explained by social factors.

As science studies programs took shape, scholars were drawn into the conversation from other disciplines, including history of science and technology, sociology of science, philosophy of science, rhetoric of science, anthropology, literature, art history, cultural studies, gender studies, history of consciousness, medicine, law and computer science (see Scientific Community Metaphor).

In the 1980s, a turn to technology occurred as science studies scholars such as Trevor Pinch and Steve Woolgar argued that technology could be examined using the principle of symmetry. As a result, many science studies programs added "technology" to their names, and started calling their field Science, technology and society. This "turn to technology" brought science studies into communication with academics in science, technology, and society programs. More recently, a novel approach pioneered by Bruno Latour and known as Mapping controversies has been gaining momentum among science studies practitioners, and was introduced as a course for students in engineering,[1][2] and architecture schools.[3]


Science studies, general
  • Bauchspies, W., Jennifer Croissant and Sal Restivo: "Science, Technology, and Society: A Sociological Perspective" (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005).
  • Biagioli, Mario, ed. The Science Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1999).
  • Bloor, David; Barnes, Barry & Henry, John, Scientific knowledge: a sociological analysis (Chicago: University Press, 1996).
  • Gross, Alan. Starring the Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies. Carbondale: SIU Press, 2006.
  • Fuller, Steve, The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies (New York: Routledge, 2006).
  • Hess, David J. Science Studies: An Advanced Introduction (New York: NYU Press, 1997).
  • Jasanoff, Sheila, ed. Handbook of science and technology studies (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1995).
  • Latour, Bruno, "The Last Critique," Harper's Magazine (April 2004): 15-20.
  • Latour, Bruno. "Science in Action". Cambridge. 1987.
  • Latour, Bruno, "Do You Believe in Reality: News from the Trenches of the Science Wars," in Pandora's Hope (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999)
  • Mary Wyer, Donna Cookmeyer, Mary Barbercheck ed. Women, Science and Technology: A Reader in Feminist Science Studies, Routledge 2001
Objectivity and truth
  • Haraway, Donna J. "Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective," in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), 183-201. Originally published in Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 575–599. (available online)
  • Foucault, Michel, "Truth and Power," in Power/Knowledge (New York: Pantheon Books, 1997), 109-133.
  • Porter, Theodore M. Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
  • Restivo, Sal: "Science, Society, and Values: Toward a Sociology of Objectivity" (Lehigh PA: Lehigh University Press, 1994).
Medicine and biology
Media, culture, society and technology

See also[edit]


  1. ^ MIT Retrieved on 2009-02-21
  2. ^ Ecoles Polytechniques Fédérales de Lausanne Retrieved on 2009-02-21
  3. ^ University of Manchester Retrieved on 2009-02-16

External links[edit]