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Science, 159(3810): 56-63, January 5, 1968

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The Matthew Effect m Science
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The reward and communication systems of science are considered.
Robert K. Mcrton

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This paper develops a conception of ways in which certain psychosociai \ ., processes affect the allocation of rewards to scientists for their contribu\ tjons- an allocation which in turn affwts the flow of ideas andfindings th&gh the communication networks of s&,nce. The conception is based upon ah, analysis of the compotite of experienc; ,,reported in Harriet Zuckerman’s intemiews with Nobel laureates in the United @ates (1) and upon data drawn from the diaries, letters, notebooks. scientific &pen, and biographies of other scientists.

image and the pubiic image of scientists arc iargeiy shaped by thecornmunaily validating testimony of sign& cant others that they have variously lived up to the exacting institutional requirements of their roies. A number of workers, in empiricai studies, have investigated various aspects of the reward system of science as thus conceived. Gtaser (3) has found. for example, that some degree of rcco&ion is required to stabiiizc the careen of scientists. In a case studyCrane (4) used the quantity of publication (apart from quality) as a measure of scientific productivity and found that highly productive scientists at a major The Reward System and bceaparats university gained recognition more ofof the Forty-First chair” ten than equally productive scientists ’ ‘at a lesser university. Hagstrom (5) has We might best begin with s&me gendeveloped and partly tested thehypotherai observations on the reward system esis that matcriai rewards in science in science, basing these on eariier ibexfunction primarily to reinforce the opreticai formulations and empirical ‘ineration of a reward system in which vestigations. Some time ago (2) it wad the primary reward of recognition for noted that graded rewards in the realm ” , scientific contributions is exchanged for ofscience arc distributed principally in +cess to scientific information. Storer the coin of recognition accorded re(6) ,has analyzed the ambivalence of search by feUow-scientists. This recogthe @cntist’s response to recognition nition is stratified for varying grades “as a qase in which the norm of disOf scientific accompiishment, as judged intereste+ss operates to make scienhv the scientist’speen. Both the self. tists deny‘ ,thc vaiue to them of influence and kvthority in science.” ZuckThe author is Giddings Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, IJew York 10027. Thi8 erman (7) and S,he Coics (8) have found article is brKd on a papw read before the that scientists ~$0 receive recognition Amctican Sociolo@icrJ Association in San Francisco. August 1967. for research done early intheir ca1

rcers are more productive later on fhnn those who do not. And the Cola &WC ato found that. at least in the B of contemporary American phys& the reward system operates iargciy in a* cord with institutional valua of the s&linasmuch as quality of d, is more often and more su-9 rewarded than mere quantity. ** In science as in other ins&u&d f&n& a special problem in &8 w&inlp of the rewardsystem tums up when individuals or organizations take on the job of gauging and suitably mVaKiing lofty performance on behalf of a large community. TIiw M uitim accolade in ZOth*eattay sciatc& the Nobel prize, is often- asshed to mark off its recipients from ail the other scbtists of the time. Yet. tbis assumption is at odds with the- wellknown fact that a good number of scientists who have notrecdved the prize and wiil not receive it ham contributed as much to the advrrrrccnrtnl of science as some of the iedpients. or more. This can be desctibed a the phenomenon of “the 4lst ChaiP The derivation of this tag is citar enough. The French Academy, it M be rcmembered. decided early that oniy a cohort of 40 couid qualify as m-0 hen and so emerge as immo& This limitation of numbers ma&...
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