Do industrial researchers have souls?
In his work The Scientific Life: a Moral History of a Late Modern Vocation, historian and sociologist of science Steven Shapin questions two widely accepted ideas. The first is that modern scientific research, as presented by Max Weber and Robert K. Merton, is a collective enterprise based on standards of interaction between researchers, exempt from any moral concern and in which individuals do not count. The second is that that deep-seated differences exist between research undertaken in the academic environment and research carried out in business enterprises which are motivated by the search for profit. Shapin takes the opposite position, maintaining first that in modern research, just as much as in classical research, individuals and their personal psychological qualities, starting with their own charisma, play a vital role, as do moral roles such as integrity and the desire for knowledge; second that these qualities and values influence just as much research undertaken in an industrial environment as that undertaken in universities. Shapin supports these affirmations with historical considerations and theoretical reflections, as well as an analysis of the results of a survey he himself undertook among a certain number of researchers. Shaking received ideas is always useful, and Steven Shapin has frequently shown himself a perspicacious observer of science. But this time, the general opinion is that he has gone too far, with a desire to think out of the box leading him to exchange one form of naivety and prejudice for another. Clearly, the statements of industrial researchers cannot be considered as strictly objective. As everyone who has ever looked at pharmaceuticals research knows, the fact that research activities are carried out in a context dominated by considerations of profitability has profound consequences on the way they are undertaken. To maintain otherwise is to defend a paradoxical thesis for the pleasure of doing so.
The writer is saying that in Merton and Weber's sociological perspective, modern scientific research is a collective enterprise in which individual human beings have no value or importance.
count verb (HAVE VALUE)
to have value or importance