Do disputes over priority tell us anything about science?

Alan G. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Conflicts between scientists over credit for their discoveries are conflicts, not merely in, but of science because discovery is not a historical event, but a retrospective social judgment. There is no objective moment of discovery; rather, discovery is established by means of a hermeneutics, a way of reading scientific articles. The priority conflict between Roger Guillemin and Andrew Schally over the discovery of the brain hormone, TRF, serves as an example. The work of Robert Merton, Thomas Kuhn, Augustine Brannigan, and Grygory Markus shows that scientists read scientific articles by means of the application of a set of pragmatic rules that subtend the normative requirements of what counts as a scientific discovery. In other words, there is a hermeneutics of science, but it is internal to that form of life. Recategorization of priority conflicts has an impact on our view of scientific controversy generally. The impact is the revision of the boundary lines of scientific controversy and the further specification of its fine-structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-179
Number of pages19
JournalScience in Context
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


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