Merton’s Institutional Imperatives Today: The Case of Mixed-Methods Community in the Social Sciences.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Noemi NOVELLO, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Italy
Robert K. Merton’s work on the normative structure of science [1] is undoubtedly a widely recognized essential contribution in the sociology of science. In particular, ethos of science is expressed by Merton through the definition of four institutional imperatives: 1) universalism, 2) communism, 3) disinterestedness and 4) organized skepticism.

This contribution focuses on the scientific field – and the related scientific community – of mixed-methods in social inquiry. Combining different methods is nothing new in the area of social sciences. However, in the last years the praxis of merging qualitative and quantitative methods for data collection and analysis is increasingly inscribed within the label “mixed-methods”. The paper will draw on an ongoing doctoral research, which applies a methodological research synthesis of published articles that declare the use of a mixed approach.

The objective here is to explore the application of the Mertonian imperatives in the contemporary pinpointed field of mixed-methods in social inquiry, understanding whether the original conception of the author is attended or not. In this second case, a reflection upon circumstances that are related to the lack of awareness of the norms in question will be delineated. Whilst imperatives are inevitably interconnected and it is difficult to distinguish among the single norms in science, the four points will be discussed one by one. Universalism in the mixed-methods community is questioned by the adoption of diverse approaches to integration; communism (as common ownership of goods) is challenged by the property rights employed by academic publishers; disinterestedness may be under attack whenever statements are not empirically proven; finally, organized skepticism open up to some epistemological issues for what concerns the academic community of focus.

[1] Merton R.K., 1942, “Science and Technology in a Democratic Order”, Journal of Legal and Public Sociology, 1: 115-26.