To be a molecular scientist. The negotiation of epistemic and social virtues in 1970s Nature’s marketplace
Bautista Perpinya, M.E.
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This thesis explores the ethical, political, social, and epistemic commitments of British molecular biologists in the 1970s, told through the eyes of Nature as the leading outlet for the latest scientific and science policy news. In sketching what scientists adhered to, I hope to distil the image of ‘the scientific self’ of molecular scientists and the epistemic virtues which they professed made ‘good’ science ‘good’. In my research, I have focused on two kinds of historical sources: the political editorial pieces in Nature such as the lead editorials and the News and Views section; and the advertisements for scientific objects. Within the historiography of commoditization of science, advertisements targeting scientists themselves have largely been ignored. As well, in the book-length history of Nature (Melinda Baldwin 2015, Making Nature), these pieces of the journal have been omitted from the investigation. As such, this thesis serves as a defence of ‘scientific advertisements’ as fruitful historical sources, bringing to the fore the importance and power of these visual objects. Concretely, I explore how much can they say about the meaning of science, and pose questions such as: are scientific advertisements proxies of what science was like in the 1970s? Can we learn something about what life was like at the bench, from an advertisement of antibodies? To contextualize their meaning and illustrate the epistemic virtues within these visual objects, I use two cases studies of the 1970s, debates in Nature’s editorials: (1) the debates over British scientific funding between Victor Rothschild, Frederick Dainton, and the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, in which the relationships between government, science, and society were explicitly spelt out (1971-1972); and (2) the debates over the regulation of recombinant DNA technology, the conceptualisation of risk and workplace safety, and the corresponding ethical duties of scientists (1974-1978).