Overview

Chapter 2 introduces the reader to research groups, the phenomenon which this book seeks to investigate. For philosophers and social epis- temologists of science, research groups are interesting insofar as group articulation. For this reason, it is questionable whether we should consider knowledge-how to be “knowledge” in the sense ofjustified true belief. “Skill” or Polanyi’s term of“inarticulate intelligence” may be a more apt vocabulary (Polanyi, 1962, p. 71).

members’ interactions immediately concern the collaborative making of scientific knowledge. So far, social epistemologists have approached research groups either from an individualist or collectivist perspective, and I provide reasons for endorsing the first perspective, commenting upon the latter only at the end of the book. Moreover, in elaborating the gradual differences between mono- and interdisciplinary research groups, I prepare for the comparative case study that latter chapters unfold.

Chapter 3 addresses questions of method, describing the way in which I rely upon first-hand qualitative empirical data. The use of such data in the context of philosophical theorizing raises a number of metamethodological and procedural questions. To address these questions, I reflect on the interplay of empirical data and philosophical concepts by mobilizing the notion of dialog between the concrete and abstract. I also provide a detailed description of the case study, the methods of data collection and the process of data analysis that underlie this book. Finally, I consider the challenge of presenting a qualitative empirical case study within an analytic philosophical discourse.

Chapters 4 and 5, then, introduce the reader in greater detail to the two research groups investigated—the planetary science group and the molecular biology laboratory. Throughout this book, I will also refer to these two research groups as group1 and group2, respectively. While the planetary science group is a smaller interdisciplinary research team, the molecular biology laboratory is a relatively large mono-disciplinary team. Both groups have developed a distinct modus operandi, and the differences that the comparison of these two groups will bring out inform my philosophical reflections.

Chapter 6 focuses on the division of labor in research groups, that is, the division of cognitive labor, but also the manual labor of experimental practice and the “social" labor that it takes for group members to interact. I examine how research is divided in the two groups studied, distinguishing two forms of division of labor, and I discuss how far these forms align with notions of division of labor put forward in the existing philosophical literature.

Chapter 7 offers a perspective on epistemic dependence that is grounded in theoretical discussion and field observation at the same time. Since instances of epistemic dependence are multifarious in scientific practice, I propose to distinguish between two different forms of epistemic dependence—opaque and translucent. A scientist is opaquely dependent upon a colleague’s labor if he or she does not possess the expertise necessary to carry out independently, and to assess profoundly, the piece of scientific labor his or her colleague is contributing. If the scientist does possess the necessary expertise, then his or her dependence is translucent. Many dependence relations, however, are neither entirely opaque nor translucent. I discuss why this is the case, and show how we can make sense of the gray zone between opaque and translucent epistemic dependence.

Chapter 8 sheds light on the issue of epistemic trust between collaborating scientists. Only on the basis of such trust can collaborating scientists enter relations of epistemic dependence. But while trust pervades scientific practice, scientists do not trust blindly and completely. Rather, as I illustrate with empirical data, they continuously fine tune their attitudes of trust towards collaborators through dialoging practices, eliciting explanations and probing understanding. Moreover, scientists supplement personal trust with impersonal trust and seek to reduce the personal trust relations that are necessary through hierarchical modes of collaboration.

Chapter 9 analyzes how far collaboratively created scientific knowledge can be characterized as collective knowledge. For this analysis, the chapter discusses two existing socio-epistemological approaches to group belief and collective knowledge. While the first of these approaches seeks to “collectivize" the belief component of knowledge as justified (true) belief, the second approach seeks to collectivize the justification component of knowledge and argues that scientific justification is often too complex to be possessed by any one individual scientist. In this chapter, I will reject the first approach and endorse the second, thus providing a concept of collective scientific knowledge that accounts well for the collaborative practices I have observed in my comparative case study.

Finally, Chap. 10 concludes the book, summarizes the arguments and offers some closing remarks.

 
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