Repertoires: A Post-Kuhnian Perspective on Collaborative Research

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We propose a framework to describe, analyze, and explain the conditions under which scientific communities organize themselves to do research, particularly within large-scale, multidisciplinary projects. The framework centers on the notion of a research repertoire, which encompasses well-aligned assemblages of the skills, behaviors, and material, social, and epistemic components that a group may use to practice certain kinds of science, and whose enactment affects the methods and results of research. This account provides an alternative to the idea of Kuhnian paradigms for understanding scientific change in the following ways: (1) it does not frame change as primarily generated and shaped by theoretical developments, but rather takes account of administrative, material, technological, and institutional innovations that contribute to change and explicitly questions whether and how such innovations accompany, underpin, and/or undercut theoretical shifts; (2) it thus allows for tracking of the organization, continuity, and coherence in research practices which Kuhn characterized as ‘normal science’ without relying on the occurrence of paradigmatic shifts and revolutions to be able to identify relevant components; and (3) it requires particular attention be paid to the performative aspects of science, whose study Kuhn pioneered but which he did not extensively conceptualize. We provide a detailed characterization of repertoires and discuss their relationship with communities, disciplines, and other forms of collaborative activities within science, building on an analysis of historical episodes and contemporary developments in the life sciences, as well as cases drawn from social and historical studies of physics, psychology, and medicine.
contemporary, epistemology, chemistry, physics
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Downstream publication: Leonelli, Sabina & Ankeny, Rachel. (2016) "Repertoires: A post-Kuhnian perspective on scientific change and collaborative research." Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 60, 18-28.