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Scientists' Orientation Toward their Work: The Relative Effect of Socialization Versus Situation

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THIS PAPER ADDRESSES itself to the controversy concerning the effect of values inculcated during the process of scientific training versus the situational context in which scientists perform their occupational role. No support is found for the argument that scientists abandon scientific norms and adopt organizational perspectives and goals once they leave the university. Log linear methods of analysis are applied to data obtained from a sample of Soviet and American immigrant scientists in Israel. The analysis shows that a full and extended scientific socialization (i.e. holding a Ph.D. degree) is a dominant determinant of scientists' value orientations, overriding the influence of the institutional setting in which they do research. The methodological grounds for the contradiction between the conclusions of this and previous studies are discussed and an interpretation of the findings is suggested. A fundamental and long-standing controversy in sociology concerns the question of whether attitudes are shaped by a process of socialization in which shared normative motivations are internalized by individuals, or whether it is the objective conditions of life-situations which determine the nature of evaluations and interests. In the most general terms this is the well-known and still debated "values versus interests" dichotomy (for a recent discussion see Warner, 1978). On a more empirical level, this issue may be approached by examining the relative importance of acquired norms as compared with situational demands and by identifying the main factors associated with the intensity of these influences. In this paper we shall deal with one particular area pertaining to the general controversy delineated above; it concerns the effect of professional socialization as compared with the impact of organizational structure in which occupational roles are performed. More specifically, we examine the relative influence of the process of training for science and of work situations on scientists' orientations. This question has been raised and investigated mostly by British sociologists challenging the "normative approach" in the sociology of science (for example, Mulkay, 1976; Barnes, 1971; Cotgrove and Box, 1970; Sklair, 1973). The main target of their criticism is the "ethos of science" as originally defined by Robert Merton (Merton, 1942). It is claimed that scientists frequently do not behave in accordance with the prescriptions of this normative system, but rather adapt to the rules and requirements of the environment or institutional settings in which they happen to be located (Becker, 1964). For instance, many scientists do not aspire to contribute to general scientific knowledge and accept the restrictions put on publishing the results of their research; some would rather be promoted within their organization than gain recognition by the scientific community; and not all expect to have freedom to choose the subjects of their research projects. Most of these data have been drawn from studies on scientists' attitudes and performance in industry (Cotgrove and Box, 1970; Ellis, 1969; Abrahamson, 1964, Hill, 1974). In principle, the non-academic, industrial setting provides an excellent framework for testing the situational adjustment hypothesis or the "instability" of internalized norms in changing situations (Barnes, 1971). University scientists presumably do not confront this kind of problem since they perform their occupational roles in the same type of institution in which they have been trained. The question is whether scientists in industry, government or business adhere to the values and norms that have been inculcated in the course of their training in universities, or conform with those prescribed by their work organizations, which may be different from and sometimes incompatible with the proclaimed imperatives of science. It should be emphasized that the present study is limited to the normative level, that is, it explores the value-orientations of scientists, not their actual behavior.


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