“Preservation of the Laboratory Is Not a Mission.” Gradual Organizational Renewal in National Laboratories in Germany and the USA

  • Olof Hallonsten
  • Thomas Heinze
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


National laboratories constitute large sectors of national R&D systems, but their scientific vis-a-vis organizational change remains understudied. This chapter examines the seeming paradox that although most national labs started as mission-oriented projects, they remain in operation with new missions. Analyzing the renewal of DESY (Germany) and SLAC (United States) within the broader context of their over-50-year histories, and using insights from Historical Institutionalism, the chapter demonstrates how micro-level changes cumulate into meso-level organizational renewal. By investigating the complexity of change processes at these two laboratories, we map important aspects of organizational adaptation and change, including relationships between micro-level change, meso-level renewal, and macro-level stability.


Organizational renewal National laboratories Big science Photon science Field formation Particle physics Germany Historical institutionalism USA 



This paper is based on research that was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) grant 01UZ1001. We are grateful for helpful comments and suggestions from Arlette Jappe, Thomas Kaiserfeld, and Richard Münch, and participants at the “International Conference on Intellectual and Institutional Innovation in Science” at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, September 13–15, 2012, and the workshop “The New Big Science” at Lund University, January 16–17, 2013, where we presented early versions of this paper.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.University of WuppertalWuppertalGermany

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