Bernal, J(ohn) D(esmond). The Social Function of Science. London: Routledge, 1946.

 

Bernal, J(ohn) D(esmond). The Social Function of Science. London: Routledge, 1946.
(Originally, 1939.)

There is no question that Bernal recognized the sources of fudge and fraud in science. In part, the
financing of science can be seen as part of the problem. Researchers today must be administrators
and there is nothing formal in any of the training to fit them for that sort of thing. Given that lack
of training, how do they do a good job at it? There are some who are natural administrators who
happen also to be in science, but please note: the completion of administrative tasks is a social
rather than a scientific accomplishment. Another source of fraud: the young must do what the old
want done. The young learn to do just that very quickly. Finally, Bernal mentions the need to get
on in one's profession: it is better to be someone's lackey for a couple of years than to remain
alone, doing independent research. In sum: "The working scientists of today are the product of
the system of selection and education." (p. 85)

Bernal also recognizes that the governments provide scientists only with minimal help. Science
must be done by those who love science, by those who refuse to see the terrible costs to
themselves of trying to do everything. The competent scientist who is not provided the
administrative and other support he needs cannot function properly, and yet in the provision of
such assistance the scientist loses his primary role and responsibility and becomes a manager.

Perhaps the most provocative proposition of this whole book is the idea that what is needed today
is a science of science. What we need is to turn our attention to the processes going on in science
so as to make them subject to rational control. Of course, a science of science is precisely what
the sociology of science is all about.