Hybrid Careers and the Interaction of Science and Technology

Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 144)


Ideas about the science-technology relationship have gone through an important evolution over the last decades. In the 1950s and 1960s the dominant model portrayed technology as applied science. This model assumed a hierarchical, almost parasitical relationship between science and technology. It assumed that technological development followed and was dependant upon paths of scientific change, whereas science followed its own, internal line of development, largely independent of technology. By the 1970s, the limitations and deficiencies of the applied science model had become increasingly apparent. Through the efforts of Edwin Layton and others, an alternative model was developed which has since gained wide acceptance. This model portrays science and technology as two distinct, but interacting communities, each with its own traditions, goals, and values, and its own body of knowledge and technique. The two communities borrow from one another, but on their own terms, generally transforming the borrowed knowledge to adapt it to different ends. In Layton’s words:

This model [of technology as applied science] ... assumes that science and technology represent different functions performed by the same community. But a fundamental fact is that they constitute different communities, each with its own goals and systems of values. They are, of course, similar in that both deal with matter and energy. But these similarities should not be overstated. Each community has its own social controls — such as its reward system — which tend to focus the work of each on its own needs. These needs determine not only the objects of concern, but the “language” in which they are discussed. These needs may overlap; but it would be surprising if this were a very frequent occurrence. One would expect that in the normal case science would beget more science, and technology would lead to further technology.1


Suspension Bridge Hybrid Career Interorganizational Network Cable Vibration Dual Career 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 1.
    Edwin Layton, ‘Mirror-Image Twins: The Communities of Science and Technology in 19th-Century America’, Technology and Culture 12(4) (October, 1971), p. 565.Google Scholar
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    A model similar to Layton’s was discussed by Barry Barnes, ‘The Science-Technology Relationship: A Model and a Query’, Social Studies of Science 12 (1982), pp. 166–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See, e.g. Walter G. Vincenti, What Engineers Know and How They Know It: Analytical Studiesfrom Aeronautical History (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990);Google Scholar
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    Although the “two communities” model has generally been interpreted in such as way as to emphasize the boundaries and cognitive differences between the worlds of science and technology, Layton himself acknowledged that these two domains have become increasingly intermeshed since the 19th century. He also hinted at the need for a more integrated model of science and technology: “In many modern social contexts physics and engineering have become so intermixed that it is difficult if not impossible to sort them out into neat pigeonholes. For example, in studying large, interdisciplinary research organizations, it is often more helpful to think of physicists and engineers as part of a complex ‘research system’ . Many men trained in physics ‘do’ technology, just as many men trained as engineers ‘do’ science, including ‘pure’ or undirected research.” See Edwin T. Layton, ‘Technology and Science, or, Vive la Petite Différence’, Philosophy of Science Association II(1976), pp. 173— 183. The model I am proposing here is intended to allow for the possibility of the emergence of this kind of integrated “research system”.Google Scholar
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    Navier discussed these techniques in his Mémoire sur les Ponts Suspendus, 2nd ed. p. 11.Google Scholar
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    This analysis of Kelvin’s career is based on Smith’s and Wise’s comprehensive biography and on two additional articles: M. Norton Wise and Crosbie Smith, ‘Measurement, Work and Industry in Lord Kelvin’s Britain’, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 17(l)(1986), pp. 147–173; and M. Norton Wise, ‘Mediating Machines’, Science in Context 2(1)(1988), pp. 77–113. Specific citations will be given only for direct quotations.Google Scholar
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    Quoted from Smith and Wise, Energy and Empire, pp. 454–455.Google Scholar
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    Thomson saw technological enterprise as the primary spur to the development of precision measurement. With respect to electrical measurements, for example, he remarked that “resistance coils and ohms, and standard condensers and microfarads had been for ten years familiar to the electricians of the submarine-cable factories and testing stations, before anything that could be called electric measurement had come to be regularly practised in almost any of the scientific laboratories of the world.” Quoted from Smith and Wise, Energy and Empire, p. 455.Google Scholar
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    Smith and Wise, Energy and Empire, p. 130.Google Scholar
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    The idea occurred to Thomson during a period in which his brother James was writing to him about methods for analyzing the efficiency and “mechanical effect” (i.e. work) of steam engines and water wheels. Significantly, William Thomson used the same term, “mechanical effect”, in his analysis of the conducting spheres. It was not a widely used term. James Thomson took it up from Lewis Gordon, who had proposed it as a translation of the German, mechanische Wirkung. Google Scholar
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    This point is further explained in Smith and Wise, ‘Work, Measurement, and Industry in Lord Kelvin’s Britain,’ pp. 158–159, 167–169.Google Scholar
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    The analysis of Bjerknes’s career is drawn from Friedman’s study, Appropriating the Weather, and from Robert Marc Friedman, ‘Constituting the Polar Front, 1919–1920’, Isis, 73(268)(September, 1982), pp. 343–363. Specific citations will only be given for direct quotations.Google Scholar
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    Quoted from Friedman, Appropriating the Weather, p. 145.Google Scholar
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    Bjerknes’s need for data was one of the major factors that initially led him toward greater involvement in practical meteorology.Google Scholar
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    The nature of the client network surrounding meteorology certainly supports such an hypothesis.Google Scholar
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    It must be emphasized that many empirical studies, even carried out within the context of these models, provide evidence for a broader range of transfers between the domains of science and technology.Google Scholar
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    By research ideologies, I mean normative ideas about how research ought to be done, what methods should be used, and what relationships should exist among research methods. Research is here taken to include the full range of exploratory activities that scientists and technologists engage in: theorizing, inventing, designing, experimenting, tinkering, etc. Research ideologies offer guidance in answering questions such as the following: is it best to derive theories from empirical practice, or vice versa? How should theory and experiment be linked in a research program? How should new technological artifacts be designed — in relation to empirical experience or to formal theories?Google Scholar
  48. 43.
    It should be noted that in the case of dual careers, like Navier’s or Thomson’s, the transfer of knowledge, practices, and values between the worlds of science and technology may result in not just one but two (interrelated) hybrid repertoires. For example, Thomson’s scientific and technological repertoires were not precisely identical, but because each shaped the other, they did come to share many features. Due to space limitations, I did not examine this phenomenon in the examples. Thus, in the case of Navier, I examined only his engineering repertoire, while in the case of Thomson, I examined only his scientific repertoire.Google Scholar
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    The existing repertoire may be either the individual’s own, or it may be understood as a shared repertoire, comprising knowledge, practices, and values common within a discipline or field of expertise at a particular time and place.Google Scholar
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    This is not to suggest, however, that a hybrid repertoire would be a spur to creativity in all contexts or situations.Google Scholar
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    In a sense, the professionalization of engineering can be seen as part of this process. Moving the locus of technological training from the workplace to the university and changing it from an apprenticeship into a formal education complete with books, lectures, and instruction in experimental methods necessarily implies a broad transformation of the technologist’s repertoire of practice.Google Scholar
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    In fact, as I have shown in another article, this was indeed the case. See ′social Determinants of Engineering Practice,’ op. cit., Note 15.Google Scholar
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    Two other notable studies that particularly bear upon the question of the relationship between science and technology are Stuart Blume, Insight and Industry: On the Dynamics of Technological Change in Medicine (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992); and George Wise, Willis R. Whitney, General Electric, and the Origins of U. S. Industrial Research (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of AmsterdamThe Netherlands

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