The Social Contract of Science

  • Niels MejlgaardEmail author
  • Kaare Aagaard
Living reference work entry



The “social contract of science” is a metaphor used to characterize the relationship between the state/society and the scientific system. When changes in this relationship are discussed, a distinction is often made between an “old” or “traditional” social contract on the one side and an “emerging,” “new,” or “revised” social contract on the other (e.g., Gibbons 1999; Guston and Keniston 1994a; Guston 2000; Martin and Etzkowitz 2001; Nowotny et al. 2001; Van der Meulen 1998). This entry will outline the main characteristics of both the “traditional” and the “emerging” social contract and briefly discuss some limitations of this framework.

The Traditional Social Contract of Science

The traditional social contract has been described in the following terms: “Government promises to fund the basic science that peer reviewers find most worthy of support, and scientists promise that the research will be performed well and...


Social Contract Public Research Institute Reliable Knowledge Grand Narrative Technological Trajectory 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark