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National Institute of Mental Health Roundtable Discussion: Promissory Notes and Prevailing Norms in Social and Behavioral Sciences Research

Richters, John E. (1997) National Institute of Mental Health Roundtable Discussion: Promissory Notes and Prevailing Norms in Social and Behavioral Sciences Research. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

Most workshops convened by the National Institute's of Health are devoted to the puzzle-solving activities of normal science, where the puzzles themselves and the strategies available for solving them are determined largely in advance by the shared paradigmatic assumptions, frameworks, and priorities of the scientific community's research paradigm. They are designed to facilitate what Thomas Kuhn referred to as elucidating topological detail within a map whose main outlines are available in advance. And apparently for good reason. Historical studies by Kuhn and others reveal that science moves fastest and penetrates most deeply when its practitioners work within well-defined and deeply ingrained traditions and employ the concepts, theories, methods, and tools of a shared paradigm. No paradigm is perfect and none is capable of identifying, let alone solving, all of the problems relevant to a given domain of inquiry. Thus, the essential day-to-day business of normal science is not to question the limits or adequacy of a given paradigm, but rather to exploit the presumed virtues for which it was adopted. As Kuhn cautioned in his discussion of paradigms, re-tooling, in science as in manufacture, as an extravagance to be reserved for the occasion that demands it. Well, as the marketing people say --- this is not your father's Oldsmobile. We are breaking with tradition today by stepping outside the map to initiate and pursue a long-overdue dialogue about paradigm reform and scientific retooling. Our warrant for prosecuting this agenda is a Kuhnian occasion that demands it--- is a protracted paradigm crisis, the neglect of which has hurt us terribly and the resolution of which will determine the viability and fate of the social and behavioral sciences in the 21st century. Since the details of the crisis are well know within and outside our ranks, a brief sketch of its main outlines will suffice as a framework for our dialogue today. They include, (a) widespread dissatisfaction with the meager theoretical progress and practical yield of more than a century of social and behavioral sciences research in many substantive domains, (b) long-neglected yet widely recognized deficiencies in the epistemological assumptions, discovery practices and justification standards of the dominant paradigm on which the social and behavioral sciences have relied --- and rely--- to conceptualize, interpret, and guide their empirical research, (c) a broadly based consensus among leading scholars and scientists about the need for fundamental paradigm reforms, and (d) institutional incentive structures that not only encourage and reinforce the status quo but discourage constructive reform efforts. Our objective for the next eight hours is to formulate strategies and recommendations for leveraging the resources and influence of the National Institute of Mental Health to foster a climate of constructive reforms where they are needed by freeing investigators in from the oppressive constraints of existing paradigms and facilitating, encouraging, and funding their retooling their efforts

Item Type:Other
Keywords:Paradigm Reform, Scientific Retooling. Research Methods
Subjects:Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Psychology > Social Psychology
ID Code:1018
Deposited By:Richters, John
Deposited On:15 Oct 2000
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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