CUDOs and PLACE: What Behavioral Principles Guide Scholarly Groups?
Everyone, today is the day that you receive your degree. With the spread of novel coronavirus infections, which have been difficult to contain, the degree ceremony that would have brought us all together on the Hayama Campus had to be cancelled. It is truly unfortunate, as we all looked forward to celebrating together with family, department faculty, and other graduate students from departments across the university. While we cannot all come together, rest assured that individual departments will be celebrating the awarding of your degree.
Since entering SOKENDAI, each of you has dedicated several years to research for your doctoral thesis. When that research was going well, I am sure you felt true joy and excitement. When it was not, I am sure it was very hard. Did you have sleepless nights? Did you ever think of quitting? Did you perhaps even think you had made the wrong life choice? Yet, you overcame all of that and, today, you receive your doctoral degree. I congratulate you. I also congratulate and want to thank the faculty who supervised your research and the family members who supported you each and every day.
What does it mean to you to have obtained your doctoral degree? For those of you who have chosen to continue on the path of scholarship as a researcher, the degree is like a driver's license--a starting point, one where you have finally been recognized as a full-fledged researcher. How about those of you choosing a different path from that of a researcher? Beyond the issue of making a career decision on whether or not to become a researcher, what capabilities do you believe yourself to have acquired individually through the act of obtaining your degree?
By undertaking in-depth research on a single topic in a particular research field, each of you has not only mastered multiple research methods in that process and become deeply familiar with the existing research findings in that field, but also, no doubt, added new discoveries or observations of some kind to what we previously knew. This is what we mean by one's "record of research." Beyond that, however, think about how you have grown as an individual person through your doctoral degree research compared to when you began that research several years ago. Once you discover that, then I firmly believe those abilities will serve to sustain you no matter what path you take in your future life.
Now, then, this thing we call the world of scholarship, the world of scholars--what are the convictions upon which this gathering of people is predicated? What do scholars believe to be the proper way to conduct scholarship? American sociologist Robert King Merton was, I believe, among the first to write about this. He distilled a code of conduct believed to be shared by communities of scientists in particular as they carry out their work. The year was 1942.
He identified four ideas: 1) Communalism, or the idea that scientific knowledge must be shared with all scholars and the entire society; 2) Universality, or the idea that all scientists can contribute to scientific truth regardless of a researcher's nationality, gender, cultural background, and so on; 3) Disinterestedness, or the idea that the fruits of science are meant to benefit humanity as a whole, not the researcher's self-interest or particular beliefs; and 4) Organized skepticism, or the idea that any scientific knowledge, whoever produced it, is to be examined critically before being accepted. Together, based on the initial letters, it is referred to as CUDO. In English, the word 'kudos' of course means "praise" or "honor." Although spelled with a C instead of a K, the acronym plays on the word and referred to as Merton's CUDOs.
The first time I learned of Merton's CUDOs, I thought to myself that it perfectly described a kind of ideal approach to a scientist's activities. But is it really? When Merton himself wrote this, they say he based his ideas on the activities of past scientists, in the period after the formation of modern science. He did not, it seems, reach his conclusions based on empirical research of how 20th-century scientists conducted their research. For him, too, I think it was his distillation of a kind of ideal image.
Later, in 1994, British-born New Zealand physicist John Michael Ziman stated his opinion that Merton's code was idealistic, not how things were in actuality. He argued that the real world of scientists reflected work that was 1) Proprietary, that is, scientific knowledge is the property of the scientists who, possessing knowledge as a resource, seek to exercise exclusive control over research findings; 2) Local, that is, individual scientists illuminate nothing more than "local" truths, and no one understands the whole; 3) Authoritarian, that is, there is a hierarchy of authority among scientists, and research is advanced around the ideas of authoritative figures; 4) Commissioned, that is, scientists are often commissioned by governments and investors to conduct research, and profit from doing so; and 5) Expert, that is, scientists behave like experts and are expected to have the authority of an expert. This view, likewise based on the initial letters, is known as PLACE.
Ziman's point is that the actual work of scientists does not unfold the way Merton describes. While I find myself agreeing with some of what Ziman argues, I also disagree on some points.
Regarding the "proprietary": While patents can be obtained through research findings and preferential rights on ideas are also an issue, I still believe scholars fundamentally consider their research findings a public good.
Regarding the "local": It is certainly true that research scholarship has grown increasingly segmented and research ever more narrowly focused. Every year millions of papers are said to be published. Today, it is no longer possible for any single scientist to have a grasp of every finding. Perhaps as Ziman says, the research findings of individual scientists are only meaningful locally within their research fields. Even so, the idea that scientific facts must have universality remains true. In a separate paper, Ziman writes that scientists must learn "metascience" and reflect on the social and ethical significance of science as a whole. I am in agreement with that view as well, yet doing so has grown increasingly difficult at present.
While Ziman's "local" may seem to contrast with Merton's use of the word "universality," I believe they refer to different things. What Ziman calls "local" is an issue, but Merton is making the point that the culture, nationality, gender, and so on of individual scholars is irrelevant to scientific research. Critics opposed to his view argue that it is idealistic; in actuality, they say, the research findings of white men in Europe and the U.S. unfairly garner greater attention than the research findings of other scientists. That is no doubt true as far as it goes, but things have been changing recently, I believe.
Regarding "authoritarian": Scientists are human, so hierarchies also arise in the world of scientists. People labeled "authorities" do exist and their views do shape the allocation of research funds and other things. No doubt there are both good and bad sides to that. That said, at scientific gatherings, anyone can participate in question-and-answer periods on any presentation and doing so is encouraged. Even a presentation by someone labeled an "authority" can be questioned, even by a graduate student, if it seems wrong. This is, I believe, a conviction shared by all scientists.
Regarding "commissioned": Ziman argues that scientific research in recent years is entwined with various interests, such that the work is never performed without regard for a researcher's self-interest. This is true and, compared to when Merton made his observations in 1942, the connections between scientific work and industry have grown much stronger. Nowadays, researchers as individuals and universities as institutions both obtain funding from industry and both are expected to contribute to industry growth. University researchers are even encouraged to launch startups and make money based on their ideas. Such is the nature of some scientific research. Science is a human endeavor; and so, as part of society's economic activity, it too inevitably becomes entwined with benefit and profit. Even so, I do not believe that most scientists feel they are pursuing research out of self-interest. When faced with a conflict between the nature of their research and profit, a scientist does not decide to put self-interest first, or so I hope.
Today, you receive your degree having completed doctoral degree research and having written a doctoral thesis deemed worthy of the title of "doctor." In that respect, each of you is an expert. While Ziman seems to focus on the negative sense of "expert," I hope you will realize instead that you bear the responsibility of being an expert.
Starting today, as you embark on your future as scholars, I hope you will develop your own ideas on what scholarship is. While I have discussed CUDOs and PLACE with you today, I hope each of you grows into the kind of person who can express their views on the nature of research and the relationship between research and society.
Again, I congratulate you. We look forward to your future work.
The Graduate University for Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI