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Trust in NumbersThe Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life$
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Theodore M. Porter

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691208411

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691208411.001.0001

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Is Science Made by Communities?

Is Science Made by Communities?

(p.217) Chapter Nine Is Science Made by Communities?
Trust in Numbers

Theodore M. Porter

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the moral economy of scientific communities. Postwar American defenders of science posited a scientific community in order to make science self-regulating. In the event that scientific method failed to keep scientists from making errors, the community would step in to sift the good from the bad. Errors would be weeded out by reviewers or fail the test of replication and be expelled from the body of scientific knowledge. Also, the community was to judge what kind of work is worthwhile, and, with a soft touch if not an invisible hand, direct the available resources to those research areas where they would do the most good. It could do so much more effectively as a free community than would ever be possible under a centralized bureaucracy. The chapter then argues that the seemingly relentless push for objectivity and impersonality in science is not quite universal, and must be understood partly as an adaptation to institutional disunity and permeable disciplinary boundaries.

Keywords:   scientific communities, science, scientific method, scientists, scientific knowledge, bureaucracy, objectivity, impersonality, institutional disunity, disciplinary boundaries

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