SOCI 325: Sociology of Science


Theme 4:
Science aligns
with power

  1. Administrative
  2. Functionalism and science
  3. Reading discussion



Topic sign-up

  • You can sign up for topics on Teams to reserve a spot for a particular topic
    (‘General’ channel, “Final Project sign-up” tab)
  • Topic submissions are due Oct 5

Student discussion questions

  • You will receive an email within the next few days with your discussion question assignments
  • You will need to do the readings for your assigned days well before the due date
  • The earliest assignment will be due Sept 28

No class on Thursday

  • There is no class this coming Thursday, September 21



Discussion groups are now set

  • You should see your team name in the “Channels” list, where you can access chat, video, and shared files
  • Responses from today onward count toward your course grade
  • A few students who did not sign up for a group were randomly assigned — if you are in a group that won’t work for you let me know as soon as possible
  • If you have particular concerns or issues, let me know as soon as possible

Functionalism and science

Structural functionalism

A line drawing of a hippo divided into arbitrary sections. The sections are labeled 'Labor','Science','Education','Media','Religion','Industry',and 'Government'. The hippo itself is labeled 'Society' in bold letters.

Society through its function

  • Structural functionalism is a theoretical approach in sociology that views society as a system of interconnected and interdependent institutions.
  • Often described with a biological metaphor: different organs and systems in a body all function to keep the whole organism working.

The function of science

Just the butt of the hippo from the previous slide, emphasizing 'Science'

Certified knowledge

  • “The institutional goal of science is the extension of certified knowledge.”
    (Merton 1942, p. 270)
  • Science adds to society’s ever-growing body of knowledge.

Maintaining function

  • Continued production of certified knowledge is enforced through an ethos of science.
  • Set of social norms. Compliers are rewarded, and violators are punished.
  • Normative structure is what makes science work, not scientists or methods.

Enforcing norms

CUDOS (Merton 1942)

  • Communism, Universalism, Disinterestedness, Organized Skepticism

Rewards & sanctions

  • “Carrot and stick”
  • Attempt to explain the force and durability of scientific norms.

Functional norms

  • Merton was not (necessarily) arguing that scientists should conform to these CUDOS norms
  • He was arguing that these norms are what ensures the production of certified scientific knowledge
A book cover. Title 'On being a scientist: a guide to responsible conduct in research'. Vague images oof sciency stuff like a person looking through a microscope, dramatically colored 3d rendering of a double helix, planets in outer space, etc.

National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2009. On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition.

Next class

Normal science, paradigms, and scientific revolutions

Required reading

  • Kuhn (1970)
    Anomaly and the Emergence of Scientific
    Discoveries and Crisis

    The Emergence of Scientific Theories


In person


Find your group

  • Meet with your group members at tables or outside of the classroom. Find the Teams channel for your group.

Find your group

  • Find the Teams channel for your group, and organize there. Can start a video meeting, voice, or only text.

Small-group discussions:

  • Due this Friday, Sept 22
  • Choose one facilitator who will keep the discussion focused and make sure everyone is able to participate.
  • Choose one secretary who will take notes and summarize the group’s responses for submission.
  • Work directly on the document available in your group chat; there is no need to submit the document


  • You do not need to reach consensus on the questions. Your write-up should mention the different points your group thought were relevant. One or two paragraphs worth of text per question should be sufficient.
    Please avoid bullet-point format.
  • You can discuss the questions in any order you like, and you do not need to respond to all of them (minimum 2). Read over them before you begin!
  • Refer directly to the text in your responses.