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Ideas in science: an ethnographic study

Buchalter, E; (2014) Ideas in science: an ethnographic study. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis investigates ideas in science. Ideas are explored as an analytical category and examined as an indigenous concept to scientists. This study identifies ideas in science as thoughts or plans, and seeks to understand the main characteristics of ideas as well as explore what factors affect the extent to which they can develop in a laboratory environment. This ethnographic study is based on fifteen months of participant observation in biomedicine laboratories at one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world. The resulting data is evaluated using Actor-Network Theory (ANT) in order to demonstrate how ideas are dynamic and best thought of as networks that are acted upon by scientists’ beliefs (Chapter 5), experimentation (Chapter 6), discussions (Chapter 7) and the institutional settings within which science takes place (Chapter 8). This thesis argues that understanding what ideas in science are, and what factors shape and influence them, is a vital part of recognising and appreciating what it means for scientists to ‘do’ science. This study demonstrates the dynamism of ideas in science by explaining how: scientists’ use of the word ‘belief’ acts on how ideas develop; experimentation justifies idea developments and scientists’ discussions facilitate the sharing and connection of ideas. Chapter 8 places the dynamic ways that ideas develop (explained in Chapters 5, 6 and 7) within what is shown to be a stifling institutional context that values ideas as static objects (for example, as delivered and communicated in publications or funding proposals). This friction, it is argued, forces ideas to become institutionally ‘frozen’ and incentivises incremental shifts in thinking.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Ideas in science: an ethnographic study
Language: English
Additional information: Permission for digitisation not received.
Keywords: Science, Laboratory, Ethnography, Ideas, Innovation, Creativity
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1436721
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