vant set of norms is always lacking for a variety of reasons: the existence of competing norms, constraints, and obstacles in organizational or group settings, and personality factors. The strength of these influences, and the circumstances that may affect them, are not well understood.
In a classic statement of the importance of scientific norms, Robert Merton specified four norms as essential for the effective functioning of science: communism (by which Merton meant the communal sharing of ideas and findings), universalism, disinterestedness, and organized skepticism (Merton, 1973). Neither Merton nor other sociologists of science have provided solid empirical evidence for the degree of influence of these norms in a representative sample of scientists. In opposition to Merton, a British sociologist of science, Michael Mulkay, has argued that these norms are “ideological” covers for self-interested behavior that reflects status and politics (Mulkay, 1975). And the British physicist and sociologist of science John Ziman, in an article synthesizing critiques of Merton's formulation, has specified a set of structural factors in the bureaucratic and corporate research environment that impede the realization of that particular set of norms: the proprietary nature of research, the local importance and funding of research, the authoritarian role of the research manager, commissioned research, and the required expertise in understanding how to use modern instruments (Ziman, 1990).
It is clear that the specific influence of norms on the development of scientific research practices is simply not known and that further study of key determinants is required, both theoretically and empirically. Commonsense views, ideologies, and anecdotes will not support a conclusive appraisal.
Science comprises individual disciplines that reflect historical developments and the organization of natural and social phenomena for study. Social scientists may have methods for recording research data that differ from the methods of biologists, and scientists who depend on complex instrumentation may have authorship practices different from those of scientists who work in small groups or carry out field studies. Even within a discipline, experimentalists engage in research practices that differ from the procedures followed by theorists.
Disciplines are the “building blocks of science,” and they “designate the theories, problems, procedures, and solutions that are prescribed, proscribed, permitted, and preferred” (Zuckerman, 1988a,