Training Scientists, Crafting Science:

Educational Formation in the Physical Sciences, 1800-2000

A Two-Part Workshop at MIT

25-26 January 2002 and 20-21 September 2002

Organized by David Kaiser

Program in Science, Technology, and Society, MIT

Department of Physics, MIT

Conference Schedule

The September conference is free and open to the public.  All sessions for the 20-21 September 2002 conference will be held at M.I.T. in Room E51-095, at the corner of Amherst and Wadsworth Streets.  For campus maps, click here.

Conference Summary

Questions of pedagogy, training, and the crafting of scientific research practices have usually fallen between the cracks separating traditional institutional and disciplinary studies on the one hand, and intellectual or conceptual studies on the other. A small but growing literature within the history, sociology, and anthropology of science, however, has begun to scrutinize the intersection of these domains. In order to probe the deep interrelations between scientists' training, learning, and research efforts -- and to sharpen and consolidate this nascent segment of the science studies literature -- a two-part workshop is being held. The 22 participants in the workshop include several distinguished leaders in the field, together with many early-career scholars. The workshop will convene once in Spring 2002 at MIT and again in Fall 2002, to discuss and analyze original pre-circulated papers. Following the workshop, I will edit the resulting volume. The goals for the workshop and edited volume are twofold. First, to solidify the small community of science-studies scholars who share interests in pedagogy, training, and learning, thereby building connections between otherwise isolated case studies. And second, to catalyze the larger science-studies field to consider the constitutive roles played by pedagogy in making modern science happen.

Conference Description

Scientists are not born, they are made. The ways in which this happens depend on time and place: becoming a scientist in Wilhelmine Germany or in Victorian Britain was not the same as in Cold War America. The ideas and practices within scientific research, moreover, are never simply auto-interpreting or self-evident. Students must be trained to put these ideas to work within increasingly-routinized regimes of learning about them and practicing how to use them. Thus a link always exists connecting scientific practices and practitioners. Despite the pervasiveness and centrality of pedagogical concerns to the modern scientific professions, however, scholars in science studies have not dedicated much attention to the topic. In order to probe the interrelations between scientists' training, learning, and research efforts -- and to begin to right the imbalance within the science studies literature -- I have convened a special two-part workshop during the spring and fall of 2002 with generous financial support from the Spencer Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Provost's Fund for Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at MIT.

Several decades ago, scientist-philosophers such as Michael Polanyi and Thomas Kuhn noted that scientists' training instills in them notions of what count as important questions, what methods and techniques might produce answers, and what measures might adjudicate the resulting research. Recent studies by historians, sociologists, and anthropologists have shown how scientists' training has, in various settings, instilled still further values and judgments. These have ranged over the moral qualities of quantifying observational error (as treated in the work of Kathryn Olesko and Graeme Gooday), the gender relations and familial models of large-scale research collaborations (as studied by Sharon Traweek), the synergies to be forged between disciplined minds and bodies (as discussed by Andrew Warwick), and the social and ethical re-orientation required for joining a secret weapons laboratory (as analyzed by Hugh Gusterson). In each of these cases, part of the impetus and obviousness of these values has come from the broader social and cultural contexts in which young scientists have found themselves. These values and pedagogical traditions have helped to shape, in turn, specific scientific programs and approaches. Only by keeping pedagogy, in its various guises, squarely in sight can scholars throughout science studies unpack and clearly articulate changes in what science has been and what scientists have done.  As the participants in this workshop have demonstrated, training and learning -- much like the practices and protocols within scientific research -- have a history.

While discussing our various case studies, we have also been focusing on "pedagogy," "training," and "learning" as analytic categories. If cast too broadly, they cease to carry much explanatory power (as demonstrated by debates over such terms as "urbanization" or "modernization"). Yet if considered as too narrowly attached to any specific case (such as turn-of-the-century reforms of the Mathematical Tripos examination at Cambridge University), the broader relevance and significance of such categories may remain obscured. The central mission of the workshop therefore is to articulate useful working definitions of "pedagogy," "training," and "learning," practical means by which the interdisciplinary fields within science studies can frame research into the topic, and the rewards to be gained by viewing old and new scientific practices through the lens of scientists' educational formation.

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