I supervise students across a range of (mainly) social science disciplines, often with a focus on science, technology, work, social theory. Applications to the following proposal are very welcome: Managing science: workers and management in the replication and reproduction of scientific knowledge
Despite Wajcman’s exhortation for management studies and science studies to combine to understand science and technology better (1) there has been very little collaboration or cross fertilization between these two areas of social science in the past two decades. Studies of the working practices of professional, academic scientists are rare, despite the importance of these workers in the knowledge economy, and there is little understanding of the relationship between HR practices, labour process and scientific knowledge production and reproduction.
This project will use a management studies perspective to consider a contemporary ‘crisis’ in formal science. The crisis of reproducibility – the inability for one research team to replicate the results obtained by another research team – has received considerable attention in the scientific press in recent years (2, 3). A recent survey in Nature found that 50% of scientists have failed to reproduce one of their own experiments (4).
This problem threatens to undermine public confidence in scientific expertise and opinion, a very major problem given the legitimised discourse of climate change denial (5). The project will investigate the management of scientists involved in knowledge production work, and will examine the labour process surrounding knowledge production (6, 7). It will consider whether it is constraints of work, managerial and institutional imperatives (8), an instrumental orientation to career (9), and a ‘publish or perish’ culture (10) that are barriers to replication and factors in low reproducibility rates.
This research will address these issues from a combined management studies and sociology of work perspective. In particular the research will consider the relationship between the construction of occupational identities, managerial control of work time and the decision making processes that take place inside work teams regarding identification of experiments to replicated and / or reproduced (10). The project will adopt a qualitative approach, including semi-structured interviews and an ethnography, and documentary analysis deployed across a range of disciplines and trans-disciplines.
1. How is the academic science labour process organised, managed and resisted?
2. How do teams of scientists in different disciplines decide on replication experiments and how is this work allocated?
3. What is the role of reproducibility/ replication in the formation of occupational identities by academic scientists?
1. Wajcman, J. (2006) 'New connections: social studies of science and technology and studies of work', Work, Employment and Society, 20, 4, 773-786. 2. Harris, R. (2017) Rigor Mortis. How sloppy science, worthless cures, crushes hope and wastes billions, New York: Basic Books. 3. Freedman, L.P., et al (2015) 'The Economics of Reproducibility in Preclinical Research', PLoS Biol, 13, 6. 4. Baker, M. (2016) ‘Is there a reproducibility crisis? Nature 533, 452–454 (26 May 2016) 5. Makri, A. (2017) ‘Give the public the tools to trust scientists’ Nature 541, 261 (19 January 2017) 6. Thompson, P. (1983) The Nature of Work. An introduction to debates on the labour process, London: Macmillan. 7. Thompson, P. and Ackroyd, P. (1995) 'All quiet on the workplace front?', Sociology, 29, 4, 615-633. 8. Bradley, H., Erickson, M., Stephenson, C. and Williams, S. (2000) Myths at work, Cambridge: Polity. 9. Erickson, M., Bradley, H., Stephenson, C. and Williams, S. (2009) Business in society: people, work and organizations, Cambridge: Polity 10. Erickson, M. (2015) Science, culture and society: understanding science in the twenty-first century. 2nd edition, Cambridge: Polity.