SPP 1409: The role of scientific reviews in the legitimation process between science and society. The case of Synthetic Biology.


In the debate on interdependencies between media, science and society, journalists are often blamed to be responsible for biases in the transformation of scientific knowledge into societal arenas. In contrast, scientists are presumed to be more or less “disinterested” (Merton 1985). What is overlooked in that case, is that scientists are more and more dependent on press coverage and public awareness in order to justify the relevance of their research (Weingart & Pansegrau 1998; Gilbert & Mulkay 1985). Therefore, it becomes more important to address scientific results and programs to extrascientific audiences (Weingart 2001). Emerging research fields in the life sciences have a particular need in legitimization which requires particular communicative strategies to scientific and non-scientific actors (Jasanoff 2005). How does this need for legitimization affect publication practices, particularly for the choice of scientific genre forms? The assumption of this proposal is that the genre scientific review article offers particular choices to address societal expectations that can be taken up by the media or other societal actors that are used especially in the formation phase of an emerging research field. Therefore we propose to study the role of the genre scientific review in the context of the establishment of such a field. The Genre scientific review shall be analyzed in the interplay between scientists, editors of scientific journals and science officials. Does the role of the scientific review change in these contexts? Which non-scientific goals are addressed in these publications? How do they refer to societal expectations? The proposal builds upon research by Charles Bazermans Genre Analyses of scientific formats (Bazerman 1988) and extends this to the addressing of non- scientific audiences. For this reason, the concept of Expectations in Science and Technology will be applied to the case of Synthetic Biology (Borup et al.2006). The research project aims at contributing to understand the strategies of scientific actors that are situated in the intersection between scientific community and specific audiences. Particular emphasis will be given to the editorial context in which the placement of review articles is embedded. Furthermore, the use of scientific review articles by non-scientific actors will be analyzed. This shall be achieved by coupling of scientometric investigations, document analysis and expert interviews.


Principal Investigators
Reinhart, Martin Prof. Dr. (Details) (Science Sociology and Evaluation Research)

Duration of Project
Start date: 10/2013
End date: 08/2016

Last updated on 2020-01-06 at 16:52