July 23, 2024

The Mertonian Norms and How They Keep Integrity in Science

The Mertonian Norms are four aspects of science created by Robert K Merton. These norms are universalism, communism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism.  These norms proposed by Merton were intended to keep integrity within the scientific fields. Robert Merton believed that science was based on values.  These values are intended to shape the scientific activities to keep them progressing in a proper fashion.
Universalism is the first Mertonian Norm and is seen as a crucial aspect of science. Universalism is the idea that science is for everyone, meaning that there are no biases, and anyone can participate. Merton states that “when the larger culture opposes universalism, the ethos of science is subjected to serious strain” (271). Merton meant by this that when people in power oppose this then the whole basis of science cannot function correctly.

Merton’s second norm was the idea of Communism. For science to advance then the findings must be shared with society. Merton states that “scientific advance involves the collaboration of past and present generations” (Merton, 275). This is so that future scientists are able to analyze and expand on past scientist’s work furthering the information given to the public and advancing scientific discovery. Without the idea of communism great ideas may be lost or unfinished ideas would not be able to be expanded upon.

Merton’s third Norm is Disinterestedness is about doing science for reasons other than self-gain. Merton states that “the demand for disinterestedness has a firm basis… [and] has contributed to the integrity of men of science” (276). Merton also claims that those papers that are intended for personal reasons such as self-aggrandizement also use techniques like cultism. In most cases Merton claims self-aggrandizement is not usually an issue within the fields of science as scientists hold themselves accountable against this.

The final Mertonian Norm is Organized Skepticism, Merton says that this is “the temporary suspension of judgement and the detached scrutiny of beliefs” (Merton, 277). This Norm is referring to scientific thought and how people need to be skeptical of its findings. No matter the research that has occurred it should always be peer reviewed. This is an important part of science as it is supposed to be unbiased and without judgement. So when someone outside of the realm of the study looks at it, it is pertinent they do so detached from any beliefs to make sure the scientist of the study did the same.

Robert K Merton created these four norms for the purpose of keeping integrity within science. When conducting science with the four norms: universalism, communism, disinterestedness and organized skepticism, it keeps the studies accountable. When following these values it is more likely that the information produced for society will be as true as possible and unlikely to be done for one’s self gain.

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