Controversies in Science and Technology—A Protocol for Comparative Research

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
James C. Petersen, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The case study method has dominated scholarly examination of scientific and technical controversies, largely because the approach provides great richness of detail about particular fea-tures of a controversy. However, case studies in scientific controversies should be viewed not only as unique products but also as strategic research sites that may guide the development of theory. For example, controversies in science and technology frequently involve challenges to existing political arrangements or calls for new public policy. Since controversies are generally played out within an adversarial framework, the disputes are easily analyzed along the strengths and weaknesses of opposing arguments.1 From the sociological perspective, the dynamics of controversy may reveal ". . . special interests, vital concerns, and hidden assumptions of the various actors".2 In a broader sense, the study of controversies may shed light on the internal and external dynamics of science itself 3 and focus attention on patterns of interaction between internal and external factors. Finally, the controversies may be seen as models of disputes in society and thus relevant to understanding social conflict and social change. In addition, we have been influenced by the movement to study the political sociology of science." We have found Schattschneider's emphasis on the socialization and expansion of conflict in disputes and Gamson's12 analysis of influence and social control especially useful in developing the protocol. In our work on the Laetrile controversy,13 we have examined the political aspects of the dispute along with other value claims. In addition we have considered knowledge claims made by both Laetrile advocates and opponents.

Additional Information

Science, Technology and Human Values, Winter, 1981, 6: 25-30
Language: English
Date: 1981
Case Study Method

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