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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Impact of Generic Governance on the Emergence of Research Fields

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Part of the Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook book series (SOSC,volume 29)

Abstract

National science policies for emerging fields and science studies investigating them tend to focus on the select few fields that are sufficiently distinct to become a target of interest. This focus tends to exclude from scrutiny the earliest stages of emergence as well as general background conditions produced by generic governance. The aim of our paper is to contribute to the exploration of the local configuration of new research fields by answering the question how generic governance structures and processes affect the earliest developmental stages of new fields, namely the emergence and early diffusion of new research practices. We use a comparative study of the diffusion of a new research practice – the experimental realisation of Βose-Einstein condensation in Germany and the Netherlands – for an exploration of how national systems of governance shape the opportunities for researchers to change their research practices and to begin new lines of research.

Keywords

  • Generic governance
  • Authority relations
  • Protected space
  • Scientific communities
  • Research funding structures
  • Funding agencies
  • Experimental physics

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the physics community, BEC is used as an abbreviation for both Bose-Einstein condensation (the phenomenon) and Bose-Einstein condensates (the state of matter resulting from Bose-Einstein condensation). We follow this practice and attempt to avoid confusion by using an article or the plural form whenever the condensates are addressed.

  2. 2.

    AMO is a research field that studies the structure and interactions of atoms, simple molecules, electrons, and light. Uses of lasers are its most important experimental practices.

  3. 3.

    The idea of ‘protected space’ has been previously used by Rip (1995: 86) to describe the laboratory as a space in which researchers are shielded from interference (see also Krohn and Weyer 1994; Rip 2011). Our use of that concept deviates from Rip’s in that we define it at the micro-level of individual researchers and their projects, include the protection from reputational consequences in the scientific community, introduce the time horizon for which a researcher is protected, and link it to the macro-level by asking for whom these individual-level protected spaces are provided. The use of the concept of ‘protected sphere’ by Hackett (2005) appears to address only the protection within scientific communities, which we include as a reputational aspect of protection.

  4. 4.

    The project “Restructuring Higher Education and Scientific Innovation” (RHESI) was funded under the EuroHESC programme of the European Science Foundation by the NWO for the Dutch and by the DFG for the German study (see contributions in Whitley and Gläser 2014, for its main results, especially Laudel et al. 2014 for the BEC study). We would like to thank Enno Aljets and Raphael Ramuz for providing access to the interviews they conducted.

  5. 5.

    In Germany, institutes of the Max-Planck Society played a role in BEC research, as did one of the few Dutch non-university institutes. The differences between research institutes and universities are not systematically discussed here due to space limitations (but see Gläser et al. 2014). Information about research at the institutes is included ad hoc wherever necessary.

  6. 6.

    We borrow the concepts ‘strategic uncertainty’ and ‘technical uncertainty’ from Whitley’s (2000) comparative analysis of scientific fields but use them differently, namely for distinguishing between two kinds of epistemic uncertainty. In contrast, Whitley applied the term ‘strategic uncertainty’ to describe the uncertainty of gaining reputation.

  7. 7.

    All quotes from German BEC researchers are our own translation. Dutch interviews were conducted in English. For reasons of confidentiality we do not further specify the roles and positions of our interviewees.

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Correspondence to Jochen Gläser .

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Gläser, J., Laudel, G., Lettkemann, E. (2016). Hidden in Plain Sight: The Impact of Generic Governance on the Emergence of Research Fields. In: Merz, M., Sormani, P. (eds) The Local Configuration of New Research Fields. Sociology of the Sciences Yearbook, vol 29. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-22683-5_2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-22683-5_2

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