Scientific community

From Academic Kids

The scientific community consists of the total body of scientists, its relationships and interactions. It is normally divided into "sub-communities" each working on a particular field within science (for example there is a robotics community within the field of computer science).

Members of the same community do not need to work together. Communication between the members is established by disseminating research work and hypotheses through articles in peer reviewed journals, or by attending conferences where new research is presented and ideas exchanged and discussed. There are also many informal methods of communication of scientific work and results as well. And many in a coherent community may actually not communicate all of their work with one another, for various professional reasons.

"Membership" to the community is generally a function of education, employment status, and institutional affiliation. Sociologists who have studied scientific communities have often found that gender, race, and class can be strong factors for an accepted entrance into the community. Historical and present-day scientists have used a variety of methods for determining who was inside or outside the scientific community, which is often required for determining what fields of investigation at all are labeled as being "science". Fields of knowledge which purport to be scientific, but are judged to be outside the norms of the scientific community, are labeled as "pseudoscience".

The scientific method implicitly necessitates the existence of the scientific community, wherein the processes of peer review and reproducibility are undertaken. It is the scientific community that recognizes and supports the current consensus within the field: the reigning paradigm, and which properly resists change until repeated and substantial evidence demands a paradigm shift, according to the theory of scientific change put forward by Thomas Kuhn. According to Kuhn, new communities establish themselves around new paradigms by developing their own terminology, sense of history, and sense of problems to be solved (and those to be ignored).


Sociologies of science

  • Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory life: the social construction of scientific facts (Beverly Hills : Sage Publications, 1979).
  • Sharon Traweek, Beamtimes and lifetimes: the world of high energy physicists (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988).
  • Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the air-pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the experimental life (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1985).

History and philosopy of science



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