Historians are not known for their skills at augury; but the parlous state of science in the 2020s demands that we attempt to situate numerous controversies over Big Data, the death of journals, flaws of research integrity, distrust of scientists, open science and the transformation of universities into a larger more encompassing framework. I will argue that although we have been living through an era of the commercialization of science since the 1980s (see my ScienceMart), something has dramatically intensified over the last decade, resulting in distinctly novel phenomena. Whereas commercialization used to mean the subjection of research outputs to market considerations, a new development seeks to monetize nearly all aspects of the research process. This has become manifest under the rubric of "open science" as the purported solution to what is perceived to ail modern science, ironically often by individuals who regard themselves as more or less opposed to commercialization of science and the dominance of for-profit journals publishers. In a further ironic twist, lately the major commercial interests behind the top 5 journals publishers are pursuing control over "open science" by imposing the structures of "platform capitalism" upon the research process, at least in the Anglophone sphere. Historians of science have come late to awareness of this development, although one can find elements of the thesis in such byways as the political theory of neoliberalism, librarians' blogs (such as Scholarly Kitchen), work in science studies on citizen science and the politics of expertise, and the political economy of platform capitalism.
Philip Mirowski, the Carl E. Koch Professor of Economics, is Professor of Economics and Policy Studies and the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to holding the Koch Professorship, he is a fellow and the former Acting Director of Notre Dame’s John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values.
Mirowski is perhaps best known for the book More Heat Than Light: Economics as Social Physics, a history of economic thought and theory relating the history of physics to the rise of neoclassical theory. In 2007, the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization devoted an entire issue to a symposium held on one of Mirowski’s papers, "Markets comes to bits," with commentary on his work by 16 leading economists and computer scientists. His 2004 book, Effortless Economy of Science?, won the Ludwig Fleck Prize, awarded annually to the best book in science and technology studies by the Society for Social Studies of Science.
Mirowski’s book, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste (2013), was chosen as a 'book of the week' by the Times Higher Education Supplement. His recent book co-authored with Edward Nik-Khah, is The Knowledge we have Lost in Information (Oxford, 2017). More recently, he edited (jointly with Dieter Plehwe and Quinn Slobodian) The Nine Lives of Neoliberalism (Verso, 2020). In addition, Mirowski has served visiting academic appointments at universities around the world, including All Souls College at Oxford University; the Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay; the University of Aix‐Marsailles, France; Erasmus University, Holland; Yale University; and Duke University.
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany
This event is part of the MPIWG's Institute's Colloquium 2021–22 series "Trusting Science," which seeks to explore this topic from interdisciplinary, transnational, and longue durée perspectives. Learn more about the series here.