Research output per year
Research output per year
Research activity per year
Much of my teaching is in the general area of social science methods and methodology; I try to teach this in ways that promotes active connections between abstract methodological principles and practical research activities. Social research is exciting and challenging: most social research methods textbooks have a knack of taking the excitement out of research, and I tend to avoid ‘textbook’ approaches.
I think that the ‘discipline’ of sociology is one that can promote social and individual change through challenging our assumptions about the world. My sociology of science modules are based on research I have carried out analysis of cultural representations of science, and working in formal science laboratories. My sociology of climate change module ends with students designing and writing advocacy statements, taking their learning from inside the lecture theatre to the real world to try and effect some change.
Although I identify, primarily, as a sociologist I think that multi- and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, learning and research are fruitful and interesting, and I tend to use a range of different materials in my teaching.
The main focus of my research is science; as it is represented in culture, as it is practiced in formal settings, and as a system of knowledge that we deploy in society. My research has been characterised as Science and Technology Studies (STS), but I prefer to think of myself as a sociologist of science, even though I go beyond traditional sociological research methods in my work.
My research uses ethnographic and cultural studies research methods – I have carried out a number of long-term ethnographic studies of science laboratories. My interest in formal science emerged from my earlier work in sociology of work which culminated in a number of books written with my colleagues Professor Harriet Bradley and Dr Steve Williams. After carrying out a large study of shop floor production workers I thought that finding a contrasting group would be interesting. I chose to look at academic scientists as they are a) incredibly productive, producing vast quantities of knowledge in the form of scientific journal articles, b) very highly qualified and c) despite having very low levels of job security are poorly unionised. My initial studies with this group of workers took a labour process approach but I soon focused on attitudes and motivations towards work, revisiting the work of Max Weber from 1918.
My interest in scientists’ work and knowledge production took me into examining climate change as a sociocultural discourse that is related to formal science and discourse. This research is ongoing as part of the Centre for Research in Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics.
I supervise students across a range of social science disciplines, although my main discipline is sociology. I am interested in supervising projects in sociology of science and technology / science and technology studies, sociology of work and employment, social theory. Projects I currently supervise are researching science and technology, work and employment, climate change / emergency, communing / the commons, trade union studies, gender and design, children and migration, and mental health.
Applications to the following proposal are very welcome: Managing science: workers and management in the replication and reproduction of scientific knowledge
Despite Wajcman’s exhortation for management studies and science studies to combine to understand science and technology better (1) there has been very little collaboration or cross fertilization between these two areas of social science in the past two decades. Studies of the working practices of professional, academic scientists are rare, despite the importance of these workers in the knowledge economy, and there is little understanding of the relationship between HR practices, labour process and scientific knowledge production and reproduction.
This project will use a management studies perspective to consider a contemporary ‘crisis’ in formal science. The crisis of reproducibility – the inability for one research team to replicate the results obtained by another research team – has received considerable attention in the scientific press in recent years (2, 3). A recent survey in Nature found that 50% of scientists have failed to reproduce one of their own experiments (4).
This problem threatens to undermine public confidence in scientific expertise and opinion, a very major problem given the legitimised discourse of climate change denial (5). The project will investigate the management of scientists involved in knowledge production work, and will examine the labour process surrounding knowledge production (6, 7). It will consider whether it is constraints of work, managerial and institutional imperatives (8), an instrumental orientation to career (9), and a ‘publish or perish’ culture (10) that are barriers to replication and factors in low reproducibility rates.
This research will address these issues from a combined management studies and sociology of work perspective. In particular the research will consider the relationship between the construction of occupational identities, managerial control of work time and the decision making processes that take place inside work teams regarding identification of experiments to replicated and / or reproduced (10). The project will adopt a qualitative approach, including semi-structured interviews and an ethnography, and documentary analysis deployed across a range of disciplines and trans-disciplines.
1. How is the academic science labour process organised, managed and resisted?
2. How do teams of scientists in different disciplines decide on replication experiments and how is this work allocated?
3. What is the role of reproducibility/ replication in the formation of occupational identities by academic scientists?
1. Wajcman, J. (2006) 'New connections: social studies of science and technology and studies of work', Work, Employment and Society, 20, 4, 773-786. 2. Harris, R. (2017) Rigor Mortis. How sloppy science, worthless cures, crushes hope and wastes billions, New York: Basic Books. 3. Freedman, L.P., et al (2015) 'The Economics of Reproducibility in Preclinical Research', PLoS Biol, 13, 6. 4. Baker, M. (2016) ‘Is there a reproducibility crisis? Nature 533, 452–454 (26 May 2016) 5. Makri, A. (2017) ‘Give the public the tools to trust scientists’ Nature 541, 261 (19 January 2017) 6. Thompson, P. (1983) The Nature of Work. An introduction to debates on the labour process, London: Macmillan. 7. Thompson, P. and Ackroyd, P. (1995) 'All quiet on the workplace front?', Sociology, 29, 4, 615-633. 8. Bradley, H., Erickson, M., Stephenson, C. and Williams, S. (2000) Myths at work, Cambridge: Polity. 9. Erickson, M., Bradley, H., Stephenson, C. and Williams, S. (2009) Business in society: people, work and organizations, Cambridge: Polity 10. Erickson, M. (2015) Science, culture and society: understanding science in the twenty-first century. 2nd edition, Cambridge: Polity.
I graduated with a BA(Hons) Sociology, then studied for a MA by Research (both at the University of Durham). After some time out from studying I completed my PhD thesis in 1996. I have taught at the Universities of Durham, Sunderland, Birmingham and Aston Business School before coming to the University of Brighton in 2003.
External Exanminer for Sociology Module Group, Open University Milton Keynes
1 Jan 2020 → 31 Jan 2024
External Examiner for Masters in Social Research programme, University of Sussex
Oct 2018 → Sep 2021
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