Science of Science, The

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Science of Science, The


a branch of research that studies the laws governing the functioning and development of science, the structure and dynamics of scientific activity, and the

interaction of science with other social institutions and with the material and intellectual life of society.

Separate aspects of the development of science have long been studied by philosophy and the individual branches of science, particularly since the middle of the 19th century (H. Helmholtz, C. Bernard, T. Huxley, K. A. Timiriazev, V. I. Vernadskii). The Swiss botanist A. Candolle (History of Science and Scientists of the Past Two Centuries, 1873) was one of the first to attempt to reveal the social, psychological, and other factors influencing the development of science. Problems associated with the making of a scientist were investigated by W. Ostwald (Great Men, 1909).

The need for an integrated study of science became particularly apparent in the first half of the 20th century as a result of the scientific and technical revolution and its expanding role. Many Soviet and foreign scientists see the immediate origin of the science of science in the discussions about the general problems of scientific development that were stimulated by papers presented by B. M. Gessen and Other Soviet scientists at the Second International Congress on the History of Science (London, 1931). These discussions led to increased interest in the Marxist concept, based on dialectical and historical materialism, of scientific development and in the Soviet system of state-planned scientific activity.

In the 1930’s, the scope of the science of science and its specific problems became increasingly defined. The Polish scientists M. Ossowski and S. Ossowski sought to create a program for the science of science. In his Science, Technology, and Society in 17th-century England (1938), R. Merton provided a sociological interpretation of a specific period in the history of science. J. D. Bernal’s The Social Function of Science (1939), an original summary of the results of his seminar on science and society at Cambridge University, greatly influenced the development of the science of science.

In the mid-1940’s, empirical studies of scientific activity evolved in many developed countries. These studies dealt with the organization of scientific research units, with problems associated with coordinating the work of scientists and engineers in industrial laboratories and in scientific and technical projects, the distribution of scientific efforts, and the financing of science.

In the 1960’s, with the formulation of the modern concept of the subject matter and tasks of the science of science and with the appearance of scientific groups devoted to solving problems of the science of science in the USSR and in other countries, the science of science became an independent study. Two trends of study developed: the analytic and the normative. The analytic study seeks to discover the laws governing the functioning and development of science as a complex system: the internal laws and sociohistorical determinants of the development of science and their interaction; the typology of the relations of science with other social institutions; the genesis and structure of systems of scientific knowledge; and the evolution of organizational forms of science as its scope and social function changes. A system of indirect indicators (variables) that uses the methods of different sciences is being developed for the crucial concepts in the science of science—”scientific activity,” “scientific knowledge,” “scientific creativity,” “science as an institution.”

Concepts and methods from history, sociology, political economy, and other fields are used to study the place of science in society and the interaction of science with other social institutions. The structure of scientific and technical activity in the entire process of “research, development, and application,” as well as the role of scientific knowledge in society, is investigated. The potential of science and its relation to the economic potential of a country that has undergone the scientific and technical revolution are clarified.

Problems of scientific creativity are studied using methods of psychology and social psychology. These problems include the motivational structure of the scientist, the age dynamics of individual and collective scientific creativity, the distribution of roles and leadership in scientific associations, the system of interpersonal relations in the course of scientific activity, and the psychological mechanism of scientific discovery and its evaluation by the scientific community.

The study of the nature and results of scientific activity—that is, the system of scientific knowledge—combines the forces of specialists in the logic of the development of science, the logic of scientific research, the history of science, and the history of philosophy. The logical structure and basis of scientific theories and conditions and means for passing from given theoretical concepts to other concepts in the course of the historical development of science are studied here. The field of statistical analysis of the structure and dynamics of scientific information files and the flow of scientific information (scientific measurement) has been developed. Scientific activity takes two organizational forms: the spontaneous association of scientists (discipline, scientific school of thought, “invisible collective”) and scientific institutions (university, academy, research institute). The study of these problems involves specialists in organization theory, psychologists, sociologists, and mathematicians.

Many disciplines have developed specialized branches (sociology of science, economics of science, psychology of science) that have become part of the system of the science of science. Concepts and methods of cybernetics, information theory, systems theory, and other fields are used in the science of science. However, the science of science is not a complex of separate disciplines nor is it a synthesis of knowledge about the logical, cognitive, social, economic, psychological, and structural-organizational aspects of the development of science. It is a science that studies the interaction of the different elements that determine the development of science as a historically changing whole, or system.

Normative investigations in the science of science are based on the analytic study of science. In the most general terms, these investigations are aimed at working out the theoretical foundations of science policy and the state regulation of science. They offer recommendations for increasing the efficiency of scientific activity and provide objective criteria for evaluating this activity; they determine the most far-reaching scientific trends as the basis for the long-term planning of scientific research. Methods of scientific prediction and systems analysis are widely used in these investigations.

The search for the most efficient forms of organization in which the disciplinary principle, the basis of scientific continuity, would be combined with the problem-oriented and matrix organization of research (study of different organizational structures, optimum number and composition of scientific institutions, apportionment of personnel time, division of labor) is becoming increasingly important. Methods from organization theory, goal-oriented programming, operations research, and PERT-type planning are used to study these problems.

A separate field of research in the science of science deals with the founding and the material, informational, and personnel resources of large research associations, scientific centers, and large-scale scientific and technical projects (mastering of outer space, study of the world ocean). Particular attention has been paid to the study of how such research affects scientific and technical progress and to the task of combining different forms of scientific and technical activity. Information flows and methods of communication between workers in the sciences are investigated, methods of functional-hierarchic simulation are applied, and integrated sociological and sociopsychological research is carried out.

The specific problems associated with the education and use of scientific personnel (selection systems, specialized education, maintaining and increasing qualifications) play an important role.

In the USSR, problems of the science of science are dealt with at the Institute of the History of the Natural Sciences and Technology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Institute of Cybernetics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR, Institutes of Economics of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (Moscow and Novosibirsk), the Central Economic Mathematical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, the Institute of Problems of Control of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, and the Institute of Mines of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

Problems in scientific measurement (naukometriia) have been developed at the Laboratory of Mathematical Statistics of Moscow State University and at the All-Union Institute of Scientific and Technical Information. General-theoretic and philosophical problems of the science of science are studied at the higher educational institutes of Rostov-on-Don, Tomsk, and Donetsk.

In Poland, the Committee on the Science of Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences coordinates work in the science of science. The Center for the Science of Science under the presidium of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences has been created in Bulgaria and the Institute for the Theory and Organization of Science of the Academy of Sciences of the German Democratic Republic has been established in the German Democratic Republic. The science of science is studied at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and at the Institute of Sociology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

International cooperation among scholars specializing in the science of science in the socialist countries has developed intensively within the framework of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). An international journal of COMECON, Problems of the Science of Science, has been published since 1970 in Warsaw.

Theoretical and empirical investigations in the science of science are carried out in the USA (T. Kuhn, D. Price, E. Garfield, R. Merton, B. Barber, D. Pelz), Sweden (H. Tornebohm, G. Radnitzky), and Great Britain.

Problems in the development of science in the developing countries, the creation of a unified system for comparing indicators of scientific activity, and other problems are studied by research groups under the sponsorship of UNESCO and in other international organizations.


Mikulinskii, S. R., and N. I. Rodnyi. “Nauka kak predmet spetsial’nogo issledovaniia.” Voprosy filosofii, 1966, no. 5.
Mikulinskii, S. R., and N. I. Rodnyi. “Mesto naukovedeniia v sisteme nauk.” Voprosy filosofii, 1968, no. 6.
Nauka o nauke. Moscow, 1966 (Collection of articles translated from English.)
Dobrov, G. M. Nauka o nauke. Kiev, 1966.
Sotsiologiia nauki. Rostov-on-Don, 1968.
Lakhtin, G. A. Taktika nauki. Novosibirsk, 1969.
Nalimov, V. V., and Z. M. Mul’chenko. Naukometriia. Moscow, 1969.
Upravlenie, planirovanie i organizatsiia nauchnykh i tekhnicheshikh issledovanii: Trudy Mezhdunarodnogo simpoziuma stran chlenov SEV i SFRIu, vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1970–71.
Ossowski, S., and M. Ossowski. “The Science of Science.” Organon, vol. 1, 1936.
Bernal, J. D. Social Function of Science. London, 1939.
Bernal, J. D. Sociology of Science. New York, 1962.
Solla Price, D. J. de. Science Since Babylon. New Haven, 1961.
Hagstrom, W. O. The Scientific Community. New York, 1965.
Storer, N. W. The Social System of Science. New York, 1966.
Radnitzky, G. Contemporary Schools of Metascience. Goteborg, 1968.
Sociology of Science. Harmondsworth, 1972.


Naukovedeniie: Problemy i issledovaniia. (Published by the Institute of the History of the Natural Sciences and Technology of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR): Organizatsiia nauchnoi deiatel’nosti. Moscow, 1968.
Ibid., Ocherki istorii i teorii razvitiia nauki. Moscow, 1969.
Ibid., Nauchnoe tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1969.
Ibid., Nauchnoe otkrytie i ego vospriiatie. Moscow, 1971.
Ibid., Evoliutsiia form organizatsii nauki v razvitykh kapitalicheskikh stranakh. Moscow, 1972.
Ibid., Nauchno-tekhnicheskaia revoliutsiia i izmenenie struktury nauchnykh kadrov SSSR. Moscow, 1973.
Naukovedenie i informatika. Kiev, 1969—.
Etudes et documents de politique scientifique. Paris, 1965—.
Problems of the Science of Science. Warsaw, 1970—.
Zagadnienia naukoznawstwa. Warsaw, 1965—.
Zeitschrift für allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie. Wiesbaden, 1969—.
Science Studies. London, 1971—.
Research Management. Washington, 1958—.
R & D Management. Oxford, 1970—.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Philosophy is the science of science, the master science, if you please.

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