Role of Reference Groups in Little Science and Big Science: An Exploratory Study*

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 12:00 PM
Room: Booth 44
Oral Presentation
Duru ARUN KUMAR , Humanities and social Sciences, Delhi University, New Delhi, India
Reference group is an important concept and analytical tool to understand an individual's behaviour in an organizational context. It refers to a person or group of people that significantly influence an individual's behaviour. People take the standards of the significant others as a basis for making self appraisals, comparisons, and choices regarding need and use of information. Two functions of reference groups have been proposed by some scholars, normative and informational. Normative function is the desire to conform to the expectations of another person or group, and informational function is an influence to accept information from another as evidence about reality. The occurrence of such influence requires the opportunity for social interaction. Seeking information, complying with the preferences of others and adopting values of others all involve some form of communication or observation of decisions, opinions and behaviour of the significant others.

In the last fifty years science research activities have grown from localised activities of small groups of scientists and research laboratories or little science, to large groups of scientists working in huge research facilities and groups, spanning different countries and spread over several years, also referred to as big science. What is the significance of the reference groups for scientists pursuing little science and those pursuing big science, as reflected in their direct and indirect communications? In this exploratory study an effort is made to understand the nature of reference groups in scientific research communities based on interviews of senior scientists who have been associated with little science as well as big science projects.