Sociology of Science : G.S. Aurora

This article is authored by G.S. Aurora. In the introductory part three basic questions posed by social scientist are discussed which are as follows – the first centres around the structure and function of relationships within or between groups or categories, the second is concerned with the relationship between an individual’s biography and the group’s or category’s history and the third set of questions touches upon the norms, values, ideas and ideologies which underpins relationship between individuals and groups.

G.S Aurora sarcastically comments on the sociology book written by T.B. Bottomore that it is an excellent book of sociology. This book omits any reference to Sociology of science in India. The state of sociology is poor could be inferred from this. However there is no dearth of journalistic writing on science policy. Official reports such as the science policy resolution of the Indian Parliament and the relevant parts of the report of the administrative reforms commission and the two educational commission provide both the raw data and mature thinking on various aspects of science philosophy. The leader of RSPO, A. Rahman is said to have written a very large number of thoughtful essays in various journals. The Director General of very reputed scientific organisations like Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Indian council of Agricultural research have also published many speeches and articles which are often termed as authoritative pronouncements on important policy matters. A lot of enthusiasm is often found in the Parliamentary debates and the speeches of major political figures which points out the lively interest and involvement of the Indian polity in science policy and science related matters.

The writer points out the drawbacks of the Indian writers on science policy that they do not have access to the state of thinking, living, values, tensions and conflicts within the scientific community. Questions such as “what is reflected in the sociologist’s lack of interest in such areas as Sociology of science and scientific professions?, “What is that generates a profession’s interest in specific areas of studies and what influences shifts in the interest of the profession from one areas to other areas” are often asked by sociologist and meta- sociologist. The writer has attempted to answer to these questions by throwing on some of the provocative conjectures. In his opinion Indian sociologist fear to tread unbeaten paths for the fear that they may be isolated from their professional colleagues. The senior sociologists on the other hand find so much satisfaction and returns in terms of professional attention from following the traditional areas of interest such as family, caste and community, that they do not digressinto newer fields. That is the reason that whenever newer fields or newer methods and points of view come within their discipline, these are invariably opened up by foreign scholars. This legitimate interest of the foreign scholars tends to affect the intellectual interests of the Indian colleagues. Indian scholars are so much dependant on appreciation and communication with the western colleagues that their interests circumscribes the interest of the Indian scholars. Sociology of science and  scientific profession has been forced upon the profession of sociologists.

G.S Aurora then discusses about the problems of social structure and function. Taxonomy of the science becomes the first task before one can set out the relationship between various segments of the field. Functional segmentation of the science automatically produces structural segmentation of the scientific community. Social scientists of science such as Kuhn have given  the insights into the patterns of growth of science in general and scientific disciplines in particular.

He then discusses about the specific characteristics of the social structure of the scientific community. As the community of science is dispersed all over the world, its sub communities are nationally and regionally delineated. George Basala’s provides an excellent illustration in his paper on the regional socio-cultural influences of the growth of science in India. Even the Edward Shield’s work, “ Indian intellectual between Tradition and modernity” is also a path breaking contribution as far as the problem of interaction between the “universalistic intellectual disciplines” and “specific socio-cultural conditions of India are concerned. A large number of problems centre on the relationship between the scientific workers and political, industrial and educational sub- systems of the broader society.

Institutional environment is a crucial factor for the segmentation of the scientific community. Administrative Staff College of India is engaged in a study of social environment of the scientists as it is related to their values and social behaviour.

Urbanisation has been included as one of the possible factor affecting the scientist. A number of questions originate from the fact of interface between the nature of Scientific disciplines and the functions of the Scientific institutions. In India, the universities have concentrated on fundamental research and applied research have been mainly in the government sponsored research institutes. Awareness of the social consequences has led to a great deal of reorientation of emphasis in the individual scientist’s work. Since “administration” forms the infrastructure of a functioning of the scientist qua scientist is very intimately related to the social relationships that it involves with this infrastructure. There are substantive problems related to the relative position of the specialist in relation to the administrators, interchangeability between the specialist and the administrators, levels of prestige and authority and their concomitant factors. These are the problems connected with the relationship between the community of science and its broader political, industrial and educational environment. The writer has discussed the three linkages based upon the nature of linkages such as “ Inter- institutional linkages”, “ Inter – collegial linkages” and “Inter personal linkages”.

The writer quotes Wright Mills and tells that according to him the intersection between the individual’s biography and social history is missed if the efforts at sociological analysis is incomplete. Life experiences of an individual vary according to his family background as well as the background of his times as he grows through the different phases of his life. These affect attitudes and values of an individual. The work of Pelz and Andrews on organisational scientists presents an excellent analysis of the interrelation between a number of social and personal factors and the work performance of scientists.

As far as the professional ethics of the scientists is concerned a large number of questions and queries  can be asked about groupal consciousness and organisation among the scientists of various disciplines to the degree to which the scientists link their professional roles with the social roles both as individuals and the groups. Another set of problems are concerned with the norms, values and ideologies of the broader society acting as the  constraining environment for the scientific value system. The detailing of such problems is not exhaustive there could be even large number of other problems that could be posed. In the opinion of the writer a large number of problems in the field of Sociology so that the students of the subject have a ready collection to choose the problem and do a research on it.

In this way the writer, G.S Aurora has systematically discussed various problems and issues concerned with the Sociology of science in scientific community and the situation of this subject and the attitude of Indian scholars have also been carefully analysed in this article.

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