Conflicts and cooperation during the genesis of scientific innovations

by Annedore Schulze

Max-Planck-Arbeitsgruppe Wissenschaftskulturen im Kommunikationsprozeß,
Institut für Philosophie, Universität Potsdam, Germany

Social conflicts and the process of communication have been examined in groups with different jobs: e.g. teachers, politicians, managers, lawyers, businessmen etc. However, there virtually is an obvious restraint to examine social conflicts among scientists. This phenomenon is particularly remarkable because especially the innovative area of research makes one expect conflict-ridden arguments per excellence. We assume that scientific innovations have their origin in new scientific concepts that differ from the previously prevailing theories or methods. If they are really new, they are judged controversially. Among other things, this shows in the fact that the scientists concerned are in escalating conflict situations that, take place on different communication levels: On the level of direct communication in research groups and the level of the scientific communities.
Results of the empirical studies of communication and conflicts in german and american groups in the field of Molecularbiology, Physics and Computerscience: During the genesis of scientific innovation, the communication is reflected by conflicts and controversies.
Scientists and engeneers consciously or spontaneously show a certain conflict management: In the sample of molecularbiologists and physicists the dominant style predominate, whereas the integrative style of conflict handling is rarely seen
In the sample of computerscientists the integrative and avoidance style predominate. They adopt a configurations of styles.The work process of them apparently demands a higher degree of cooperation.
Conflict ability and reflexivity are called for, in order to increase the constructivity of the communication in the scientific research.

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