Séminaire d’histoire et philosophie des sciences : Chimie, science et société
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|Science in a Closed Context: The Case of Industrial Research, c.1900|
Carsten Reinhardt (Bielefeld)
11 mars 2010
What happens when science—its methods, standards, practices as well as some of its goals, values, and organizational structures—is transferred from an "open" to a "closed" context? Much of science was, and is, done in environments that hinder free communication, the uses of results and the choice of problems: the military is one example, business another. The lecture gives a brief overview of the emergence of the corporate research system in the German chemical industry during the late 1800s and early 1900s. It analyzes its key characteristics with regard to similarities to and overlap with academic science. On the one hand, and in the better developed fields, industrial research became quite independent from its academic counterpart. On the other hand, and in more insecure and innovative areas, corporate innovation heavily depended on academic input of concepts and technologies. The focus will then be on the communication channels and modes of collaboration between university and industry, and the degrees of openess and closure required by both sides for successful cooperation. The patent system is presented as an effective communication system for industrial research, enabling the exchange of ideas while securing corporate interest in property rights. At the same time, and together with academic journals and books, it allowed for an efficient balance of academic desires and industrial needs: what had been patented, could be published more safely. Surprisingly, or maybe not so, the seemingly open structure of academic science emerges as a doubtful case, at least in chemistry, c.1900. It appears that both sides, industry and university, followed similar rules and had similar aims, although they concentrated on separate parts of the innovation system then in existence.
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