Becker, Howard S. "Problems in the Publication of Field Studies," in Reflections on Community

 

Becker, Howard S. "Problems in the Publication of Field Studies," in Reflections on Community
Studies, edited by Arthur Vidich, Joseph Bensman and Maurice R. Stein. New York: John Wiley,
1964, pp. 267-284.

Here Becker is interested in the problems inherent in publishing facts about people. He ultimately
sees that the release of information is a matter of individual conscience, with the researcher being
the arbiter of what shall be shown the outsider.

"More frequently, the social scientist takes himself in, ‘goes native,' becomes identified with the
ideology of the dominant faction in the organization or community and frames the questions to
which his research provides answers so that no one will be hurt. He does not do this deliberately
or with the intent to suppress scientific knowledge. Rather, he unwittingly chooses problems that
are not likely to cause trouble or inconvenience to those he has found to be such pleasant
associates." (p. 276)

"Trouble occurs primarily, however, because what the social scientist reports is what the people
studied would prefer not to know, no matter how obvious or easy it is to discover. Typically, the
social scientist offends those he studies by describing deviations, either from some formal or
informal rule, or from a strongly held ideal. The deviations reported are things that, according to
the ideals of the people under study, should be punished and corrected, but about which, for
various reasons that seem compelling to them, nothing can be done. In other words the research
report reveals that things are not as they ought to be and that nothing is being done about it. By
making his report the social scientist makes the deviation public and may thereby force people to
enforce a rule they have allowed to lapse. He blows the whistle both on those who are deviating
but not being punished for it and on those who allow the deviation to go unpunished." (pp.
273-274)

Becker, here, is making some strong points from which one can extrapolate regarding whistle
blowing in science: so long as co-professionals are bound in loyalty to one another and so long as
historians, philosophers and sociologists have limited access to scientists, an access controlled by
scientists, the games of science watching are not dangerous to the subjects. Therefore, this nice
kind of science watching can continue, with scientists controlling science and science watchers.