ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY:
From the World of Science to the World of Research?
Bruno Latour, Science, Vol 280, Issue 5361, 208-209 , 10 April 1998
In the last century and a half, scientific development has been breathtaking, but the understanding of this progress has dramatically changed. It is characterized by the transition from the culture of "science" to the culture of "research." Science is certainty; research is uncertainty. Science is supposed to be cold, straight, and detached; research is warm, involving, and risky. Science puts an end to the vagaries of human disputes; research creates controversies. Science produces objectivity by escaping as much as possible from the shackles of ideology, passions, and emotions; research feeds on all of those to render objects of inquiry familiar.
There is a philosophy of science, but unfortunately there is no philosophy of research. There are many representations and clichés for grasping science and its myths; yet very little has been done to illuminate research. An association was created 150 years ago for the advancement of science, but what would an Association for the Advancement of Research look like?
Science does not enter a chaotic society to put order into it anymore, to simplify its composition, and to put an end to its controversies. It does enter it, but to add new, uncertain ingredients (such as the beautiful and unexpected prions that earned S. B. Prusiner a Nobel Prize last year) to all the other ingredients that make up the collective experiments. When scientists add their findings to the mix, they do not put an end to politics; they add new ingredients to the collective process. To the many spokespersons who already represent humans and their needs, they also add more spokespersons who represent--how should I say it?--nonhumans and their needs.
In 150 years, all the ills have had plenty of time to flee from the wide-opened Pandora's box. Only one thing remains inside: hope. It might be just the right time to fetch it.