Towards a New Ethos of Science or a Reform of the Institution of Science? Merton Revisited and the Prospects of Institutionalizing the Research Values of Openness and Mutual Responsiveness

Novation (6):1-33 (2024)
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Abstract

In this article, I will explore how the underlying research values of ‘openness’ and ‘mutual responsiveness’, which are central to open science practices, can be integrated into a new ethos of science. Firstly, I will revisit Robert Merton's early contribution to this issue, examining whether the ethos of science should be understood as a set of norms for scientists to practice ‘good’ science or as a set of research values as a functional requirement of the scientific system to produce knowledge, irrespective of individual adherence to these norms. Secondly, I will analyse the recent codification of scientific practice in terms of ‘scientific integrity’, a framework that Merton did not pursue. Based on this analysis, and illustrated on the case of COVID-19 as a case in which the institution of science was challenged to deliver urgently on societal desirable outcomes, I will argue that promoting open science and its core norms of collaboration and openness requires broader governance of the institution of science in its relationship with society at large, rather than relying solely on self-governance within the scientific community through a new ethos of science. This conclusion has implications for re-evaluating research assessments, suggesting that the evaluation of the scientific system should take precedence over evaluating individual researchers, and that incentives should be provided to encourage specific research behaviour rather than solely focusing on individual research outputs. This article is followed up by Commentaries of Carl Mitcham, Alfred Nordmann, Sabina Leonelli, Lukas Fuchs, Monica Edwards-Schachter

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