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Effect of the Nobel Prize on Modern Science

The Nobel Prize

In his final will of November 1895, Alfred Nobel allocated most of his $9 million estate to “a fund, the interests accruing from which shall be annually awarded as prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind” in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. Announced in over a hundred newspapers worldwide, the Nobel Prizes captured the public’s imagination, and continue to do so today by making a competitive spectacle of the sciences and literature. The Prizes remain the most coveted awards in their respective fields.

But it has been through the awards in the natural sciences that the Nobel Prizes gained their prestige. The aura of the Nobel Prize was first built up by association with already ‘great’ laureates: Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Watson, and Crick, among others, before the prize itself became an indicator of greatness. Throughout the prize’s century-long history, selection errors and controversies in the science prizes have been few and far between, while the same cannot be said for the literature and peace prizes. Perhaps for this reason, there has been less sociological attention given to the science prizes. Still, the Nobel Prize is the gold standard of scientific excellence and has played major roles in shaping today’s scientific world. This paper will therefore examine how the Nobel Prize—as reward and as capital—structures the scientific field. The role of the Nobel Prize in modernizing processes both within, and of, the scientific field will also be explored.

Sociology of science

Modern science, as a largely autonomous and self-governing social space, is extremely fascinating. Over the past few decades, the sociology of science has sought to model the complex practice of science which has since the 16th century flourished in a rather self-sufficient manner. Science is generally understood as the set of methods by means of which knowledge is produced and certified, as well as the stock of accumulated knowledge that has arisen from these methods (Merton 1996:267).

There have been multiple influential models of science, namely by Merton, Kuhn, and Bourdieu, all of which will be useful to analyze the relationship between the Nobel Prize and science. These sociologies primarily disagree on whether science is describing objective truth, and whether science as a practice can isolated from prevailing social and cultural conditions. Naturally, in each model, the Nobel Prize plays a different role.

Mertonian Science

The first well-developed theory of science was a structural-functionalist theory, concerned with the “cultural structure of science” as an institution (Merton 1996). According to Merton, the goal of the scientific institution is the extension of certified knowledge. This ultimate objective is achieved by the continual implementation and observation of “institutional imperatives”, i.e. prescriptive norms and mores of science, in both the moral and technical sense. The imperatives are universalism, communism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism. Universalism in science means that truth-claims are to be evaluated according to preestablished, impersonal criteria, with no regard for the claimant’s identity. Communism refers to common ownership of goods, whereby any scientifically produced knowledge should immediately enter a common stock of knowledge (the public domain) in which its producer has little or no equity. Disinterestedness is the impersonal pursuit of knowledge. Organized skepticism requires scientists to temporarily suspend judgements stemming from institutionalized attitudes when approaching problems. All these imperatives maintain order and maximize efficiency to facilitate the ultimate institutional goal. In this sense, the Mertonian conception of science is somewhat similar to Weber’s ideal bureaucracy.

This model of science is also realist, since it takes for granted the existence of the social world and of science. It does not take into account how scientific conflicts—which arguably are what drive scientific progress—are settled. Rather, this theory describes science as an communal institution dominated by central norms; these norms presumably combine to form Durkheim’s “collective consciousness”. While conflicts are inevitable, the progress of Mertonian science is guaranteed by the scientific method and the accumulation of knowledge.

Among the many features of the Mertonian “scientific community” is the elaborate reward system: “The institution of science has developed an elaborate system for allocating rewards to those who variously live up to its norms.” (1957) It is because of the differential distribution of rewards that the Mertonian scientific community can function. The Nobel Prize comes into play here, but its complex relationship with the scientific community will be discussed at length later.

Kuhnian Science

Kuhn’s theory does not assume uniform scientific development through time; in fact, Kuhn’s science is characterized by alternating periods of “normal science” and “revolutions” (Kuhn 1962). The two phases of science are qualitatively different from each other: normal science resembles the Mertonian model of cumulative progress, where scientific work is more like “puzzle-solving”. That is, the scientist’s success is due to their familiarity with, and ability to apply, established methods of solution and of accumulated knowledge. Progress in periods of normal science is therefore contingent on a strong commitment to a “paradigm”: a constellation of shared beliefs, values, and technical norms which form the scientific culture. The paradigm, a kind of thinking framework, determines what is right and wrong; what is a valid question. In this way, the paradigm steers scientific progress.

In periods of revolution, however, the validity of the paradigm is called into question. Scientific revolutions may be initiated by persistent anomalies, that cannot be easily explained away using the current paradigm. The revolution will involve a search for a replacement paradigm, one that can solve the anomalies. With the replacement paradigm comes new scientific beliefs and practices.

One crucial feature of Kuhn’s theory is the “Essential Tension”, which arises from his assumption that during normal science, scientists do not seek to verify their paradigm. As such, there is a tension between revolution and commitment to the existing paradigm, and it is only through mastery of the current tradition that revolutionary work can be produced: “Only investigators firmly rooted in the contemporary scientific tradition are likely to break that tradition and give rise to a new one.” (Kuhn 1977:227)

Moreover, Kuhn argues that the epistemic quality of a new theory is judged by comparing it to a paradigmatic theory. That is, the standards for assessment are not independent of theory, but are based on perceived relations of similarity. Since the criteria for evaluation are subject to change, it is impossible to compare theories that have been formulated in different eras of normal science, separated by revolutionary paradigm changes. This is his concept of “incommensurability”, and it implies that science does not necessarily get closer to the objective truth, if there is one.

Kuhnian science is rooted in a relativism; through this lens, the reward system in science is inextricable from the prevailing paradigm.

Science as a Bourdieusian field

The Bourdieusian sociology of science arises from the marriage of Bourdieu’s “theory of society” to science. This allows science to be explained using the notions of “habitus”, “capital”, and “field”.

In Bourdieu’s seminal theory, power is created by culture and continually legitimized through a complex relationship between structure and agency (1984). Originating in Elias’ The Civilizing Process, the “habitus” is “a system of dispositions, that is of permanent manners of being, seeing, acting, and thinking. Or a system of long-lasting (rather than permanent) schemes or schemata or structures of perception, conception and action.” (Bourdieu 2002:27-8) These dispositions are shaped by past events and structures, thereby informing current practices and structures. Also central to his theory is the concept of ‘capital’, which can be non-material (i.e. social, cultural, or symbolic). Bourdieu observes in his study of French society that cultural capital is the means for non-economic domination and imposition of hierarchy; inequality may be hidden in non-material capital, and displayed through differences in taste (1984). He argues that “social order is progressively inscribed in people’s minds’ through ‘cultural products’ including systems of education, language, judgements, values, methods of classification and activities of everyday life,” (1986: 471) leading to the formation of a habitus which entails an acceptance of one’s prescribed position on the hierarchy. Finally, society is a “field” of forces in which individual actors play out their dispositions as they struggle for distributed capital.

In Science of Science and Reflexivity, a posthumous compilation of Bourdieu’s last lectures, he describes science as a “structured field of forces, and a field of struggles to conserve or transform this field.” (2004:33) Agents (scientists, teams, laboratories), defined by the specific capital they possess, exert forces on the structure of the field, which in turn determines them. The force associated with an agent crucially depends on the amount (scientific) capital possessed. Scientific capital is a very specific form of symbolic capital, based on knowledge and recognition. Possession of large amounts of scientific capital endows an agent with power over the field, and therefore over agents with less capital.

In a field of struggles, agents strive to transform the existing power relations. The actions undertaken in this struggle are determined by the agents’ position in the field—for instance, a researcher formulates a research plan based on the amount of resources at their disposal, taking into consideration the positions of their rivals. Since the scientific field predominantly features high concentration of capital, the principal struggle will be between the dominant agents and the challengers. The former, analogous to Marx’s bourgeoisie, are most comfortable with the state of “normal science”. They also enjoy key advantages since they have a say in how science is performed. Even so, faced with constant challenges from below, the dominant agents are forced to constantly innovate.

The Bourdieusian scientific field breaks from previous models by invalidating the assumption that science can function based on its own internal mechanisms (2004:45). Also, the idea of the “scientific community,” in which scientists form a homogenous group that voluntarily submits itself to Mertonian imperatives, cannot be valid. Instead, there is constant (intense) competition among agents to dominate the field. Nonetheless, scientists do equip themselves with instruments that enable them to form communities, since transmission of scientific capital depends on effective communication, and a common culture inscribed in the scientific habitus (see Page 10). This allows Bourdieu to argue that the scientific field is autonomous, i.e. “the system of forces that are constitutive of the structure of the field (tension) is relatively independent of the forces exerted on the field (pressure).” (2004:47) The price for entry into this autonomous field is competence, namely, one’s familiarity with the scientific habitus.[1]

The Nobel Prize structures the scientific field

As the preeminent symbol of scientific achievement, the Nobel Prize functions as a reward in the Mertonian sense, and a form of scientific capital. As such, it can act as a force of differentiation that structures the field.

The Nobel Prize as Reward and Capital

For Merton, scientific rewards form a complex system, defined by a scale that relates the form of reward to the level of scientific accomplishment. For instance, in the practice of eponymy, the greatest scientists have eras named after them (the Newtonian era), slightly lesser scientists may get to name a new science or discipline (Euclidean geometry), followed by countless theories or laws (Brownian motion). In the same spirit, the Nobel Prize is the symbol for recognized achievement in science. Unlike non-scientific awards, it embodies validation from scientists of distinction, including other laureates, whose scientific prowess is universally accepted. Contenders for the prize are expected to have produced sound knowledge (as vetted by peer review); it is the quality of the contribution that is assessed and commensurately recognized.

While scientific knowledge is to be shared and assessed in a disinterested manner, that it can be separated functionally from its circumstances of production[2] allows disinterested scientists to still preserve the origins of the knowledge in collective memory. The Nobel Prize is one mechanism for preservation—it labels certain scientists, in light of their contributions, as permanent exemplars of good science. So, by recognizing scientific excellence, the prize guides new scientists to the “ideal.”  The prize is particularly suited for this function, since it is accompanied by a sense of finality and objectivity—awards are never rescinded or modified, even in the case of glaring mistakes or omissions.

Moreover, the Nobel Prize, along with other rewards, lead to an “institutional emphasis on originality.” (Merton 1957:649) Scientists seek to have themselves recognized as original contributors to the common stock of knowledge, further seeking to claim priority for themselves. This emphasis on priority therefore exposes the scientist emotionally to failure, and is to be balanced with the ethos of humility, disinterestedness, and modesty. This emphasis on originality leads the continual progress of science.

The Nobel Prize as a reward does not, however, explain why scientists desire recognition. It assumes that individual scientists will develop a concern for their work to be recognized. To be clear, the desired recognition extends beyond the certification of their produced knowledge; rather, it is for their original discoveries to be seen as worthy, excellent scientific work. Bourdieu’s field theory, which regards the Nobel Prize as a form of scientific capital, can account for this.

Scientific capital is a form of symbolic capital. Symbolic capital is a set of properties that only affects agents who possess the “categories of perception necessary to know and recognize it.” (Bourdieu 2004:55) Scientific capital is acquired by scientists who have a made a distinctive contribution, and is only valid when recognized by their competitors. The position that a scientist occupies in the distribution of scientific capital, as perceived by others capable of perceiving it, then determines the distinctive value  of the scientist’s contribution, as well as the “reputation” of the scientist within the field.

Scientific Advantage and Its Accumulation

To understand how the Nobel Prize leads to scientific advantage, it is necessary to consider how financial capital is also active in scientific work, i.e. financial resources also determine an agent’s position in the distribution of capital. Especially in the natural sciences relevant to the prize, scientists have to take into consideration the struggle for economic resources, usually in the form of grants, so as to pay staff, upkeep equipment etc. There is a constant need to defend one’s position and the value of one’s scientific work to organizations responsible for allocating financial resources to competing requests. The criteria these organizations follow, however, are not necessarily and objectively scientific.

But the criteria always take into account the scientist’s position in the field, which is in turn determined by the amount of symbolic capital possessed. After all, even other scientists in the field judge their competitors using the same measure.[3] As Bourdieu writes, “Symbolic capital flows to symbolic capital.” (2004:56) According to him, the position-taking of a scientist is “the product of the relationship between a position in the field and the dispositions (the habitus) of the occupant.” (2004:59) When choosing between scientific strategies, for instance, whether to work towards “low-hanging fruit” or to embark on long-term projects with lower chances of success, the scientist will have to take into account the range of possibilities available, which is determined largely by their position in the field.

It follows that advantage accumulates in science. The capital that comes from the Nobel Prize is converted into economic capital that can be used for further work. The greater space of possibles available to the laureate will allow them to embark on risky research strategies that may not necessarily bear fruit, but which, if successful, have more revolutionary potential. (Such is the nature of scientific pursuits.) Moreover, laureates can identify and train other “promising” young scientists, thus establishing an elite or pro-elite group at the top end of the field. This may become self-perpetuating, thereby explaining the clear trend in “laureate apprentices” becoming laureates themselves, and how most laureates seem to be concentrated in a few institutions, at least in the United States (Zuckerman 1977).

The model in which symbolic capital begets more capital allows us to explain many phenomena specific to the Nobel Prize, one of which is Merton’s “Matthew Effect.” This refers to the phenomenon where “eminent scientists get disproportionately great credit for their contributions to science while relatively unknown ones tend to get disproportionately little for the occasionally comparable contributions.” (Merton 1988:206) Even if Nobel laureates are listed as the last author on a paper, they acquire proportionally more symbolic benefit than less-known collaborators who may have contributed equally, or more.

The effect of the Nobel Prize in opening up the space of possibles available is not always positive—taken to the extreme, the overaccumulation of capital impairs both critical self-examination and disinterested evaluation by peers that are crucial for the certification of scientific knowledge. This is illustrated by the case of Derek H. R. Barton, who was the 1969 chemistry laureate. In January 1983, established as an eminent figure in the field, he published a communication asserting a revolutionary non-free radical pathway for the oxidation of saturated hydrocarbons, which he coined “Gif chemistry.” (Stavropoulos, Çelenligil-Çetin and Tapper 2001) Gif chemistry was seen as a gateway to an entire unexplored field in organic chemistry. Barton’s astonishing “result” led to a flurry of research, with over 60 articles published independently studying Gif-related chemistry. In fact, Barton’s research group actively pursued Gif chemistry for 18 years until his death. However, beginning in 1996, the Gif pathway was conclusively invalidated. The blunder was traced to a simple oversight in Barton’s experimental setup—he did not look for opposing evidence to his theory. What is more remarkable, though, is how this piece of erroneous and easily disproved knowledge was allowed to stand unchallenged for 18 years. It is unlikely that the same claims published by a lesser scientist would stand for long.

As illustrated, symbolic capital, especially the very prestigious Nobel Prize, may lead to differential treatment of agents by their peers. The Nobel laureate enjoys an advantage in any kind of epistemological war with other less-endowed agents, since their position is backed up by their symbolic capital. The relaxed peer “supervision”, a lack of scientific rigor, may allow them to deviate from proper scientific methodology (the habitus). Separately, having accrued significant capital, the scientist may also find it easier to lose productivity—laureates’ published productivity drop by a third immediately after the award, and a further 27 percent within ten years (Zuckerman 1977:229). In this sense, the Nobel Prize does not achieve its goal of stimulating further progress.

The Nobel Prize is specific from other rewards in how its capital value overflows to non-scientific institutions, especially in the process of counting and claiming Nobel laureates. The Nobel Prize has been used as an indicator for the scientific standing of nations and organizations; academic institutions, with which the prize-winners have been affiliated in any way, lay claim to laureates and use the cultural capital associated with the Nobel Prize to enhance their own status. The awarding of the Nobel Prize also makes the laureate a popular candidate for a slew of other awards, so much so that “the number of awards Nobelists receive is largely a function of the length of time they survive their prizes.” (Zuckerman 1977:237) The cultural capital allows scientists to take privileged positions in non-scientific fields. As a case in point, Linus Pauling, the chemistry laureate for 1954, became a peace laureate in 1962 for his efforts against H-bomb testing. This illustrates the interconvertibility of capital, in agreement with Bourdieu’s theory.

The Nobel Prize and modernity

The Nobel Prize is an antiquated award, both in its rituals, and how it is designed to promote individual glory. Yet, the persistence of the Prize as a primary indicator of scientific excellence, as discussed previously, seems to suggest that it is relevant, if not central, to the modern scientific field. Borrowing from all three models of science, we will see how the Prize, by reinforcing the scientific habitus, drives modernity in science.

The Nobel Prize Reinforces the Scientific Habitus

It is now useful to apply the notion of “habitus” to the scientific field. The scientific habitus allows agents entry into the field and informs their actions therein. Even though agents in the scientific field act with deliberate intentions—that is, to gain capital—the habitus does not refer to the part of the scientist’s consciousness informed by logic and experimental methods; rather, Bourdieu calls it the “craft of the scientist.” (Bourdieu 2004) The scientific habitus is an abstract intuition and skill that allows for the judgement of what is right or wrong, what is good or otherwise. In fact, Polanyi writes that there is no good way to articulate criteria used within the field to evaluate scientific works (1951). In other words, the habitus is a conventional wisdom, a “connoisseurship”, which cannot be put on paper, but which can be learned by example. This habitus can therefore orient the behavior of scientists to conform with Merton’s institutional imperatives.

I would like to argue that by recognizing and rewarding exemplary scientific work, the Nobel Prize plays a major role in shaping and reinforcing the scientific habitus. Importantly, however, since there are no objective criteria to evaluate the worthiness of scientific works, the Nobel Prize relies on the habitus of the dominant agents in the field to make its selections every year. In particular, the committee for selection every year comprises five or six members chosen by the Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the Karolinska Institute. Nominations are sought from an international list of laboratory directors, academics, eminent figures, and all former laureates. These individuals are, for the most part, well-versed in the scientific habitus. Comparisons to the habitus will inform a nominator or a committee member’s evaluative criteria when faced with multiple options for the ideal candidate. The overall decision results in the selection of a laureate, who will then join the ranks of the scientific elite, the exemplars to be emulated by future generations of scientists.

This process is important to consider because it results in a dominant elite (the laureates), who have a near monopoly of the power to produce and impose the habitus that will eventually become second nature to all other agents in the field. This is comparable to the monopoly over physical violence in Elias’ modern state.

Compared to the modern state, however, the scientific habitus is not a static set of predispositions that the elite seeks to defend. This is understood by first seeing how the habitus and the Kuhnian paradigm differ. The paradigm (the currently accepted tools with which to approach a scientific problem) is a subset of the habitus, which itself also contains “skill” elements (e.g. how to identify a good problem). In the Bourdieusian scientific field of struggles, the paradigm is ever the subject of contention between the incumbents and the revolutionaries; the elite is forced into a state of constant innovation to keep up. As Kuhnian scientific revolutions occur, the paradigm is replaced by a new one. However, the “skill” elements of the habitus are unchanged. For instance, disinterestedness, which is codified in the scientific habitus, requires a laureate to suspend personal judgement when evaluating work, even if doing so means overthrowing their own work. The unique scientific habitus therefore makes it possible for the Nobel Prize to reward revolutionaries—many, if not the majority, of laureates are themselves revolutionaries in the Kuhnian sense. Laureates whose paradigms have been replaced are nonetheless still seen as great scientists. This would not be possible in the case of the modern state. The Nobel Prize also maintains the “essential tension” between the need to innovate and the need to conform to the scientific habitus. This essential tension would not persist if the time-independent, conventional wisdom of how to spot a potentially important scientific problem was not codified.

The Nobel Prize also plays the role of exemplifying the scientific habitus, to agents who, despite having entered the field, may not have access to examples of good scientific work. The scientific habitus can only be learned by example. For scientists working in smaller institutions, or in developing countries where the scientific field is nascent, the Nobel Prize, by decisively elevating a certain body of work over others in the copious mass of scientific literature, defines scientific excellence for all agents in the field, across physical borders. That is, where eminent scientific mentors are absent, the prize fills in. This is possible in part, due to the popularity of the Nobel Prize, such that its awarding is usually followed closely worldwide. In this sense it plays a modernizing role, by increasing accessibility in science. The habitus used to be shaped by privileged and autonomous “gentlemen” in whose “public rooms” experiments were performed (Shapin 1994); today, the scientific habitus is independent of culture and geography.

The Nobel Prize and External Forces

Having examined at length the role of the Nobel Prize in the scientific field, we now turn to consider science in the context of the greater social sphere. According to Weber’s theory of institutional differentiation (Lepsius 2017), modernization is characterized by the centripetal divergence of core institutions such as economy, family, religion, and science. The institutionalization—and modernization—of science is therefore driven by its autonomy, that is, the disentanglement of the scientific habitus from political, economic, or religious habitus.

If we conceive the scientific field as an emergent cultural space, and not take for granted the inherent epistemic authority of science, then it becomes clear that the cultural authority of the scientific field needs to be defended. The scientific field relies on appropriate cultural conditions that allow it to remain autonomous, in part because its continuity depends on the active participation of capable individuals who meet the conditions for entry. Active participation is in turn motivated by a positive public image of science. Therefore, the case for science as a source of true knowledge about the world always needs to be made. This is the struggle of scientists in the greater social field. I contend that the Nobel Prize aids in the creation and maintenance of cultural conditions necessary for the continued autonomy of science. Specifically, the Nobel Prize is valuable for the scientific field because it is one of the few forms of scientific capital with a symbolic value recognized by outsiders.

The broader cultural significance of the Nobel Prize is closely related to its celebrity in popular media, since its early years. It began to be awarded at the turn of the century, just as the intellectual advancement of science was becoming increasingly removed from the general public sphere.[4] In the absence of public participation, the prize preserved public interest, which was necessary for public support of science, even though the public did not have a solid grasp of Einstein’s relativity or Schrodinger’s quantum physics. This was possible in part because the selection and awarding process invited speculation and debate: when the Nobel Prize is awarded, the ‘short list’ of candidates is not released for the next 50 years; committee disputes are rarely disclosed. This disciplined invisibility has somehow constructed an image of the Nobel Prize as the objective measure of scientific excellence. Moreover, the prize perpetuates the publicly palatable view of the lonely scientific genius[5] and dramatizes scientific success. Perhaps most importantly, the prize promotes the popular notion that science, like any other modern field, is a contest from which there must emerge a definite winner (English 2008:2). This view, while an inaccurate description of science, ensures that the awarding of the Nobel Prize is followed by media attention being paid to the laureates’ research topics, and in some cases, even their private lives.[6] All of this has the effect of ascribing a mythical status to the scientists and to science, more than ever before.[7]

In short, by acting as a “bridge between high intellectual achievement and the marketplace,” (Feldman 2001:10) the Nobel Prize has managed to preserve the autonomy of the scientific field, even as the field becomes further differentiated from other social institutions.

Looking forward

This paper has attempted to explain how the Nobel Prize has shaped and modernized the scientific field. But the relationship between the prize and science is not as straightforward as depicted—we have not addressed the myriad of complications surrounding the award, including how Nobel’s instructions were put into practice, the politics of the Nobel committees, failures to recognize important contributions, external influences on award decisions, and so on. These are all important, but they fall outside the scope of this analysis.

Science has a curious relationship with modernity. The practice of science is rooted in a habitus which, at its core, has retained its general form as far back as the sixteenth century. Yet science produces technology, which is unquestionably a key force shaping social development today; this is, after all, the raison d’être of science. However we wish to see science in relation to modernity, the practice of science will persist far into the future. On the other hand, much uncertainty surrounds the future of the Nobel Prize in the sciences. More than ever, science is collaborative, and most of today’s knowledge production happens at the intersections between traditional fields. Given the Prize’s antiquated rules of honoring the three natural sciences and no more than three individuals at a time, it is hard to see how it can retain its value as scientific capital and continue structuring the field. But its elevated status is largely due to how these rules are enforced, so how can it stay relevant and important?

On a separate note, as we have previously discussed, the Nobel Prize has allowed science to become autonomous. Unfortunately, the modern separation of social institutions means that science is barely comprehensible to the public. Lionel Trilling has lamented “the exclusion of most of us from the mode of thought which is habitually said to be the characteristic achievement of the modern age.” (2009:484) Is modernity not bringing us closer to understanding the world? Does the closed-off scientific field have a monopoly on this understanding, and do we outsiders simply take for granted the validity of science, like we did with religion?

References

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste: Routledge.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2002. “Habitus.” Pp. 27–34 in Habitus: A Sense of Place, edited by J. R. Hillier, E. . Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2004. Science of Science and Reflexivity. Translated by R. Nice. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

English, James F. 2008. The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value: Harvard University Press.

Feldman, Burton. 2001. The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy, and Prestige. New York: Arcade Publishing.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962. “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” International Encyclopedia of Unified Science 2(2).

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1977. The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change: University of Chicago Press.

Lepsius, M. R. 2017. Max Weber and Institutional Theory. Switzerland: Springer.

Merton, Robert K. 1957. “Priorities in Scientific Discovery: A Chapter in the Sociology of Science.” American Sociological Review 22(6):635-59. doi: 10.2307/2089193.

Merton, Robert K. 1988. “The Matthew Effect in Science, Ii: Cumulative Advantage and the Symbolism of Intellectual Property.” Isis 79(4):606-23.

Merton, Robert K. 1996. “The Ethos of Science.” Pp. 267-76 in On Social Structure and Science, edited by P. Sztompka. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Polanyi, Mihály. 1951. The Logic of Liberty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Shapin, Steven. 1994. A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stavropoulos, Pericles, Remle Çelenligil-Çetin and Amy E Tapper. 2001. “The Gif Paradox.” Accounts of Chemical Research 34(9):745-52.

Trilling, Lionel. 2009. The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent: Selected essaypro.com?tap_x=ZQaCDvQxuz6mVdnUddBuGn">Essays: Northwestern University Press.

Zuckerman, Harriet. 1977. Scientific Elite. New York: The Free Press.


[1] On a side note, the closure of the scientific field in the epistemological sense is due to the fact that producers of science tend to have as their evaluators the agents most competent to refute their theories. For Bourdieu, this saves science from relativistic reduction, and allows science to generally progress closer to the truth.

[2] Namely, its social and cultural circumstances of formation. This is not the case for sociological theories, for instance.

[3] It has been shown that among physicists, the frequency of citation is related to the symbolic capital of the laboratory to which the scientist is attached. [cole and cole]

[4] Mathematization, in particular, had the effect of excluding the public from scientific understanding and discussion. [Kuhn 1977 31-65]

[5] Citations for the NP almost never include mention of others.

[6] The first true Nobel laureate celebrities were Pierre and Marie Curie, who were among the Physics laureates in 1903. They were an unworldly, quiet couple who were suddenly thrust into the limelight, providing the media of their day with a sensational rags-to-riches story.

[7] Science was not always an esteemed field—science students and faculty at Yale used to sit separately from the rest in chapel. (Kevles, the physicist)



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