Scientific research does not merely supply facts, let alone mere truths. Ideas of indifference and independence, of value neutrality and a pursuit of knowledge for its own ends are indeed central to a definition of scientific knowledge. However, such a definition needs to be thought together with perceptions of necessity and practicality. In addition, the theory, history, and sociology of science have shown that science does not emerge and persist in isolation. Rather, it is strongly intertwined with the historically and socially specific circumstances of the respective production of knowledge, which is labeled science (or, i.e. “Wissenschaft”) under very different conditions.
At the KWI, it is our understanding that the classic fields of science studies can be enriched by approaches and methods from the Humanities and from Cultural Studies. This way, aspects of media, language, rhetoric, as well as symbolic and performative aspects gain relevance: What is the role of archives and records with regard to the dispersion and passing on of scientific knowledge; in how far do forms of publication change? What are the means of illustrating, demonstrating, and proving to inform and convince peers and laymen? What are the sources from which information about these changes may be retrieved, and how can these be displayed if they do not follow linear courses? How can we describe the many non-verbal and implicit aspects which also determine the way in which science is practised, rehearsed, performed, and rewarded? And finally, is it useful to talk about scientific cultures, and if so, how can they be explored historically and systematically? It is our aim at the KWI to pursue these questions in order to complement established approaches of science studies and contribute innovative historical and comparative perspectives.