9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN24 Science and Technology

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Research Systems and Networks Building AA, AA.225

Systems, networks or spaces: science dynamics revisited

This paper explores critically existing notions conceptualising the dynamics of science across its different aspects (e.g. knowledge, epistemic communities, organisations, practices etc.). Here the focus is on conceptual developments that are mainly relational and aim to incorporate in the understanding of science influences (actors and relationships) to a certain degree exogenous to it. Examples are provided by the notions of National Innovation Systems, National Research Systems, actor networks (in different guises) and actor constellations.
Building upon the critical analysis of existing notions conceptualising the dynamics (and explicating their methodological strengths and weaknesses) it is proposed that a concept of research space(s) might be better suited. Conceptually and empirically, the research space is defined by the "essential" relationships of the research organisations and by layered notions of utility of knowledge. In turn, the ?essential? relationships of research organisations are outlined by the essential exchange in which these engage. At the most general level this is the exchange of resources for knowledge. In terms of resources the organisations of science engage predominantly (although not exclusively) in exchanges involving money . Where knowledge is concerned the exchange can involve knowledge embodied in science artefacts (academic paper, books, research reports, data sets, equipment and facilities, techniques, new molecules etc.) or/and knowledge embodied in people (competencies). Although the organisational actors are likely to vary between different research spaces these would broadly be state/government organisations, industrial and commerce organisations and possibly (but not necessarily) charity organisations.
Finally, it is argued that the proposed notion of "research space" has several implications for the analysis of science and its dynamics. First, it gets away from notions of science systems and their structure as hierarchical and "layered". Second, and related to the previous point, the notion of "research space" allows the student of science and science policy to look beyond different socio-political entities (nation state, European level, regions etc.) and see the interactions of the organisations of science as a seamless transgression of boundaries and levels. And third, the notion of "research space" can provide an important stepping stone towards the development of comparative frameworks.