The Methodologists: a Unique Category of Scientific Actors

Keywords: STS methods, controversy studies, laboratory studies, reproducibility


This essay introduces a new analytical category of scientific actors: the methodologists. These actors are distinguished by their tendency to continue to probing scientific objects that their peers consider to be settled. The methodologists are a useful category of actors for science and technology studies (STS) scholars to follow because they reveal contingencies and uncertainties in taken-for-granted science. Identifying methodologists is useful for STS analysts seeking a way into science in moments when it is no longer “in the making” or there is little active controversy. Studying methodologists is also useful for scholars seeking to understand the genesis of scientific controversies, particularly controversies about long-established methods, facts, or premises.

Author Biography

Nicole C. Nelson, University of Wisconsin Madison

Nicole C. Nelson is an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies in the department of Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She studies complexity and uncertainty in biomedicine, with a particular focus on preclinical research with animal models. Her recent book, Model Behavior, is an ethnographic exploration of what laboratory research looks like when scientists assume the phenomena they are studying are complex. She is also a Collaborating Editor at the journal Social Studies of Science.


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08 Jan 2020
Considering Concepts