We are reblogging this review of Bruno Latour’s classic book about science mainly for the question posed in the next to last paragraph of this post–namely, why do scientists (and scholars generally, we might add) care so much about priority and about getting credit for their work (e.g. citations, awards, etc.)? Is it simply another example of human vanity, or is it about something else?
Let’s do one more post on the economics of science; if you haven’t heard of Latour and the book that made him famous, all I can say is that it is 30% completely crazy (the author is a French philosopher, after all!), 70% incredibly insightful, and overall a must read for anyone trying to understand how science proceeds or how scientists are motivated.
Latour is best known for two ideas: that facts are socially constructed (and hence science really isn’t that different from other human pursuits) and that objects/ideas/networks have agency. He rose to prominence with Laboratory Life, which followed two years observing a lab, that of future Nobel Winner Roger Guillemin at the Salk Institute at UCSD.
What he notes is that science is really strange if you observe it proceeding without any priors. Basically, a big group of people use a bunch of animals and chemicals and technical…
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