Jan Cherlet, a PhD student at the Dept of Philosophy at the University of Bologna and the Dept of Third World Studies at Gent University, asks the best question to the science studies community I’ve seen for a long time:

Dear colleagues
Which “social study of science” publication would convince scientists
themselves?
I seek a recent publication that describes the various ideas of the
“social study of science”, that adduces a good amount of convincing
evidence, that is easily accessible, and that would be accepted by
practising scientists themselves.
Thanks for your recommendations!
Jan

(from yesterday’s EASST Eurograd mailing list).

Jan’s question is an acid test for STS. Science managers and science bureaucrats probably get a lot out of reading social studies of science publications — but do scientists? Is the conceptual world of STS of use and interest to scientists? Can it help scientists formulate alternative research strategies? Help postdocs survive in the job race? Make science labs a more interesting place to work? Induce new and interesting ideas and experiments? Or even make this world a better place to better?

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  • Jan Cherlet

    Hi, I’m the PhD student that asked the question.

    Here is a compilation of suggestions I got from colleagues on the Eurograd mailing list.

    1.
    Castel, Boris and Sismondo, Sergio (2008) The Art of Science, University of Toronto Press
    http://books.google.com/books?id=UiGnPwAACAAJ&dq=castel+sismondo+art+of+science&hl=en&ei=NFCITaoxg-05xMChng4&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA

    This work probably fulfils best my specific needs. It is the product of the “unusual collaboration between a physicist with a strong interest in the histories of art and science, and a philosopher with a broad knowledge of science as a human activity”. It is really written for scientists, and aims to debunk the myth of the scientist as robot or the scientist as genius. The negative side is that it does not cover a wide range SSS concepts. There is no mention, for instance, of the “closure of controversies”. It does mention, however, Kuhn’s ideas.

    2.
    Bucchi, Massiano (2004) Science in Society: An Introduction to the Social Studies of Science, Routledge

    This is one of the many manuals of “social studies of science” that are out there. It focuses very much on science in society, less on the mechanisms *within* scientific inquiry.

    3.
    Yearly, Steven (2005) Making Sense of Science, Sage

    This is, again, a manual. As manual, it is my personal favourite – it covers a wide range of topics and is written in a very balanced way. But it is written for (under)graduate students in SSS, not to convince the “hard” scientists themselves.

    4.
    Sundberg, Mikaela (2011) Creating Convincing Simulations in Astrophysics, Science Technology & Human Values, published online 2 November 2010

    This article was recommended to my by the author herself. In this particular article, she analyzes how astrophysicists determine whether a simulation is credible or not and how they also try to convince others. She has presented it to astrophysicists who very much agreed with her conclusions and a similar confirmation came from quantitative chemists too.

    Conclusion: Except for the first publication in this short list, SSS scholars don’t seem to communicate very often their findings to the “hard scientists” themselves. Obviously they are the public that is “hardest” to convince of the social/human character of science!!

  • Jan Cherlet

    A question similar to mine has been raised on another blog:
    “Do you have book suggestions for scientists who want to understand science better through modern science studies?”

    Alice Rose Bell suggested these readings:
    http://alicerosebell.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/sociology-of-science-for-scientists-with-a-note-on-going-up-bottoms

  • Thanks Jan — I’d missed Alice’s excellent post!
    ThomaS

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