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Laboratory Studies and the World of the Scientific Lab

Daniel Lee Kleinman

Subject Life and Physical Sciences
Philosophy » Epistemology
Sociology » Science and Technology

Key-Topics institutions, science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The most prominent laboratory studies – produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s – continued a trend in the sociology of science and technology away from attention to the institutional character of science and toward a sociological understanding of the process of knowledge production itself and the “technical core” of science. To comprehend the process through which knowledge is constructed , these studies undertook ethnographic investigations of the work that goes on in scientific laboratories. Among the central findings of this body of scholarship are: (1) contrary to standard images of science, which suggest that the methods, practices, and outcomes of science are universal (or trans-contextual), knowledge production occurs at a local level and is subject to local variation; (2) instead of the characterization of science as fundamentally logical and rational, science is the product of contingent factors; (3) scientific work does not merely read its results from nature, but instead nature is transformed in the laboratory; (4) if the view of science as “reading off nature” amounts to an understanding of science as a descriptive practice, the early laboratory studies show, by contrast, that scientific results are the product of construction. Initially published in 1979, Latour and Woolgar's Laboratory Life (1986) is probably the most prominent laboratory study. This book traces ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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