12 Dec 2014

Models of Cooperation and Competition in the Sciences

Both within a scientific field and society at large, scientists and research institutions compete for resources (money, time, personnel) as well as for influence and reputation. On the other hand, competition often takes place within cooperative structures – a lab, an institution or collaborative network – where materials, information or results are shared. Scientists also produce competing interpretations or explanations of phenomena, criticizing other approaches for being no so much wrong as inadequate – a situation that might be described as epistemic competition. Furthermore, we can speak of epistemic collaboration when different approaches are seen as complementing each other. Competition and cooperation thus seem to be always intertwined and their interaction generates the changing dynamic of scientific disciplines.

Models, material or conceptual, as well as images often play central roles in the social structures or material infrastructures in which scientists compete and collaborate. They often result from collaborative efforts, either because their production requires specialists from different fields, or because they are designed to collect information from different researchers or even fields of research. Especially in situations of epistemic competition, where researchers have to convince third parties of the value of their approach over that of other groups, images or models in their evidential rhetoric play an important role. But also other representational devices or infrastructures such as nomenclatures, databases or journals shape the interaction of scientists. With respect to such structures we can speak of models for exchange between scientists. Meant to enable cooperation, debates surrounding their design reveal competing approaches to communication and interaction.

This workshop brings together different case studies from the perspectives of the history, philosophy and social studies of science. While much progress has been made in recent years in these fields with respect to the investigation of the various roles played by different types of models and images in science, this workshop took a fresh look at this question by foregrounding the role they play in processes of competition and collaboration in science. On the other hand, investigating these two types of interactions as they are embodied in scientific representations or models for exchange allowed understanding and comparing the conventions and mechanisms of competition and collaboration and their historical change in a particularly focussed way.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)


Robert Meunier
Kärin Nickelsen
Reinhard Wendler
Nina Samuel
Mathias Grote
Jenny Bangham
Hallam Stevens
Pierre-Luc Germain

Organized by

Kärin Nickelsen
Robert Meunier

In English

First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin
Cite as: Models of Cooperation and Competition in the Sciences, workshop, ICI Berlin, 12 December 2014 <>