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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.

The word "studies" is used (as opposed to, for example, theory) because most science studies practitioners investigate particular phenomena (technological milieus, laboratory culture, science policy, the role of the university, etc.) without subscribing to a particular view of the topic.

History of Science Studies

Science studies is best 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. 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 a powerful intellectual synthesis, which 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. Previously, successful scientific theories were attributed to having discovered the truth of the matter, while failed theories were attributed to the bias introduced by social factors, such as religious belief or racism. 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, and anthropology, but also literature, art history, cultural studies, gender studies, history of consciousness, medicine, law and computer science (see Scientific Community Metaphor).

See also

Related people


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).
  • Fuller, Steve, The Philosophy of Science and Technology Studies (New York: Routledge, 2006).
  • 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. (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

  • Fadiman, Anne, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997). (website)
  • Martin, Emily, "Toward an Anthropology of Immunology: The Body as Nation State," in Mario Biagioli, ed., The Science Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 1999), 358-371.
  • Dumit, Joseph, "Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity" (Princeton University Press, 2003).

Media, culture, society and technology

External links

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