What is a "scientific community"? What are its features? I am looking for rather recent and widely received definition of "scientific community".


I wrote my dissertation on this topic; you can read a paper based on that work here.

I use the term "practices" or "communal practices," which emphasizes what communities do rather than what they "are"; but I'd suggest that the community for a practice is just the group of people who engage in that practice. So the scientific community is simply the group of people who engage in scientific practices, namely, scientists.

On my account, practices are complex, collaborative, goal-oriented, socially organized, sustained activities. In other words, they're things that groups of people do in an organized way over extended periods of time in order to realize certain purposes. The combination of organization and goals leads to normativity (rules of appropriate behavior) and politics (the use of power to determine what rules are enforced).

We can roughly define scientific practices as practices that have the purpose or goal of producing knowledge. It's difficult to be more precise, because it's hard to find good generalizations that apply to all and only the scientific practices. (Not all scientific fields use experiments, for example, and lots of traditional knowledge is based on systematic observation.)

For some scientific practices, their goals seem to be "purely epistemic." They want knowledge for its own sake, without any broader purpose. Cosmology is my standard example here. But many scientific practices pursue knowledge for the sake of some other goals. Pharmaceutical researchers are trying to improve health; conservation biologists are trying to protect wildlife and natural spaces. In these fields, social or contextual values play a role in characterizing the appropriate aims and methods of scientific practice. For example, should we emphasize preventive medicine rather than treating disease with drugs? How does the goal of protecting wildlife relate to the goals of tourism and raising animals for food? Our answers to these questions should inform the way pharmaceutical researchers and conservation biologists carry out their research.

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    I am glad you are able to answer the question, I have deleted my comment, which was based on a judgement of what was suitable for the site. If you consider it suitable, I am very happy to go along with that.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Nov 18 '18 at 17:11
  • It seem that scientific practices have constitutive ethical features/values. To what extent current scene of scientific production (for example, peer-reviewed publications, etc) can be taken as genuinely representing such ethical features/values? E.g, some journals, indexed in international databases, easily publish papers for money. Also, there are professors who force their postgraduate students to publish papers under their names. So corrupt practices can accompany scientific practices. Any study on corrupt scientific practices with regard to scientific community/scientific production?
    – Sasan
    Nov 19 '18 at 1:55

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