Mertonian Norms

Mertonian norms: CUDOS


Communalism – The findings of academic science are public knowledge, rather than private knowledge; they are accepted as primary literature in the public record only as a result of peer review; secrecy is prohibited in the sense that it cannot carry weight or be given credit in scientific discourse; dishonesty is not tolerated and mutual, personal trust is the norm; the ethic of communalism helps to explain the importance of empiricism and intersubjectivity in scientific epistemology; epistemic strategies include quantification, measurement, standardization (and calibration), instrumentation, experimentation, and verification

Universalism – Universalism in science has two faces: first, contributions to science can not be excluded because of race, nationality, religion, social status, gender, sexual preference, or other irrelevant criteria (i.e., science is multicultural); science strives to be a meritocracy; the scientific community attempts to be democratic and fair to its citizens; second, empirical ‘facts’ have to be consensible and the scientific ‘theories’ that interpret them have to be consensual; the categories of “fact,” (representation of experience), “taxonomy” (classification of facts), and “theory” (explanation of the classification) have to be shared among the scientists

Disinterestedness – When scientists present themselves or their work to the scientific community, they try to take a “backseat” to their own observations and results and to previously reported observations and results; scientific papers are written in a neutral, impersonal, passive voice to minimize the personal and social context of the research; academic science tries to attain consensual objectivity (intersubjectivity) by merging individual interests into a collective enterprise; the purpose of the knowledge is often said to be “for knowledge’s sake,” as if there were no interest in the uses to which the knowledge could be put; all reference to economic, political, religious or other social interests is routinely excluded; an impression of humility is conveyed by systematically citing formal scientific sources for everything that is not entirely their own work; on the other hand, although impersonally written, research papers are never anonymous; credibility is the prime personal asset and reliability the prime social asset; thus one role science has to offer a democratic society is as independent arbiter of social questions (of a scientific nature) that otherwise could only be resolved by reference to political, religious, or economic institutions

Originality – Scientists are self-reliant, independent thinkers who are trained to be original; whether choosing a research question, deciding on an approach to address it, or finding a way to convince others of their findings, scientists must display novelty in order to gain maximum credit; when they publish, something about the research has to be new; thus, freedom or independence is a necessity in science (in the academy we call it “academic freedom”); also, the right to dissent (see below) is absolutely critical; this need for originality explains the emphasis on research rather than, say, scholarship and the drive towards specialization; research areas (requiring projects and proposals) have to be formulated and in some sense discovered

Skepticism – Scrutiny of research claims is a hallmark of good science; peer review allows the most important moment for skepticism to be exercised and is the key institution of the scientific culture; this allows scientists to be held accountable to a community, rather than a superior; the scientific culture is an institutionalized context for argumentation; peer review occurs at both ends of the process: in funding research proposals and in accepting for publication research reports; credibility and relevance are two important criteria when reviewing research; verification (via reproducibility) is a ‘triple point’, where psychological, social, and epistemic considerations come together in a critical arena; an additional degree of confidence is achieved by ‘validation by triangulation’ when different approaches give the same answer