SubjectsSubjects(version: 861)
Course, academic year 2019/2020
Sociology of Science and Scientific Knowledge - JSM016
Title: Sociology of Science and Scientific Knowledge
Guaranteed by: Department of Sociology (23-KS)
Faculty: Faculty of Social Sciences
Actual: from 2019
Semester: winter
Points: 8
E-Credits: 8
Examination process: winter s.:
Hours per week, examination: winter s.:0/2 Ex [hours/week]
Capacity: unknown / 25 (25)
Min. number of students: unlimited
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
priority enrollment if the course is part of the study plan
Guarantor: Mgr. Jan Maršálek, Ph.D.
Teacher(s): Mgr. Jan Maršálek, Ph.D.
Last update: doc. Mgr. Martin Hájek, Ph.D. (26.11.2019)
The growth and success of the modern sociology of science is closely related to the study of scientific controversies (Raynaud 2015). The works of H. Collins (1975, 1981, 1985), M. J. S. Rudwick’s book (1985), and S. Shapin and S. Schaffer’s study (1985) are widely regarded as having helped to constitute the “new” sociology of science, which brought the social studies of science to the center stage of sociology more generally (see Lynch 1993 for the distinction between the “old” and “new” sociology of science). From the methodological point of view, scientific controversies have proven to be a richly exploitable historical situation in which the internal organization – or rather the process of organizing – of science can be comfortably observed. In contrast to what already established scientific facts seems to indicate, it has been shown that the laws of pure reason do not govern science as exclusively as one might believe. Consequently, for many scholars scientific controversies have become the “strategic research site” the need for which was stipulated by the classic representative of the “old” sociology of science, R. K. Merton (Merton 1963). This being said, controversies seem to be relatively rare in the history of science (for the situation in social sciences, see Gingras 2014), and it is then questionable whether their privileged epistemological position delivers a proper picture of science and its dynamics. In order to shed light on the relative scarcity of scientific controversies, we wish to open up the somewhat unexplored question of the social and epistemological conditions under which controversies arise (cf. Pickering 1981, Gordin 2013). The history of the conflict between the sociology of science and philosophy of science will then be used in order to support our claim that an objective tension does not necessarily result in the emergence of controversy. For our discussion, we shall consider how sociology of science, from its very outset, positioned itself with regard to philosophy of science, and survey the critical arguments sociology devised against philosophy in different moments of its development.
Course completion requirements
Last update: Jana Vojanová (02.10.2018)

 Course requirements and assignments


Assignment guidelines:


1. Active participation in the class, class attendance is required

2. Oral presentation

3. Term paper



Last update: doc. Mgr. Martin Hájek, Ph.D. (03.12.2019)

1. The "old" sociology of science and the idea of "strategic research sites"


10/10/2019, we meet at 5.30 pm: Robert Merton, “Multiple Discoveries as Strategic Research Site” in: The Sociology of Science. Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London 1973, pp. 267-280 + "The Neglect of the Sociology of Science", ibidem, pp. 210-220. 

Facultative: Robert Merton, “Notes on Problem-Finding in Sociology.” In: Merton, R. – Broom, L. – Cottrell, L. S. (eds.), Sociology Today. Problems and Prospects. Vol. I. Harper Torchbooks, New York - Evanston, 1965, pp. ix-xxxiv.


2. The “new” sociology of science: scientific controversies as a “strategic research site”


Dispute over existence

Harry M. Collins, “The Seven Sexes: A Study in the Sociology of a Phenomenon, or the Replication of Experiments in Physics”, Sociology, 9 (2), 1975, pp. 205-224.

Harry M. Collins, "Son of Seven Sexes: The social Destruction of a Physical Phenomenon", Social Studies of Science, Vol. 11, No. 1, Feb. 1981, pp. 33-62.  

Bruno Latour, "Pasteur and Pouchet: The Heterogenesis of the History of Science" in M. Serres (ed.), A History of Scientific Thought. Elements of a History of Science. Blackwell 1995, pp. 526-555.


Facultative: Harry M. Collins, “The Mystery of Perception and Order” in: H. M. Collins, Changing Order. Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice. The University of Chicago Press 1985 (1992), pp. 5-28.


Dispute over method

Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump. Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life, chapter II: "Seeing and Believing: The Experimental Production of Pneumatic Facts", Princeton University Press, Princeton 2011 (2nd ed.), pp. 22-79.


3. Scientific controversies and other “research sites”


Bruno Latour, Science in Action, chapter II: "Laboratories". Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA), pp. 63-99

Karin Knorr Cetina, “The Couch, the Cathedral, and the Laboratory: On the Relationship between Experiment and Laboratory in Science” in A. Pickering (ed.), Science as Practice and Culture. University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp. 113-138. 

Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3, 1988, pp. 575-599.


Facultative: Karin Knorr Cetina, “Laboratory Studies: The Cultural Approach to the Study of Science” in: S. Jasanoff - G. E. Markle - J. C. Petersen - T. Pinch, Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (revised edition), Sage 1995, pp. 140-166.

Facultative: Emily Martin, “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles.” Signs, Vol. 16, No. 3, 1991, pp. 485-501.


4. The status of scientific controversies in the dynamics of science


Andrew Pickering, “Constraints on Controversy: The Case of the Magnetic Monopole.” Social Studies of Science, vol. 11, 1981, pp. 63-93. 

Michael Gordin, The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe. University of Chicago Press, 2013 (one or two chapters, TBD).

Dominique Raynaud, “Al-Samarquandi’s Native Theory of Controversies: An Essay on the Negotiation of Truth.” In: D. Raynaud, Scientific Controversies. A Socio-Historical Perspective on the Advancement of Science. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick – London 2015, pp. 284-314.


Charles University | Information system of Charles University |