Article | Bulletin for the History of Chemistry | 2008

The Gordon Research Conferences As Scientific Infrastructure

by Arthur A. Daemmrich and Leah Shaper

Abstract

Conferences serve as a crucial part of scientific infrastructure by offering participants the opportunity to announce novel findings, discuss research methods, and take part in a variety of networking activities. Presenting papers and learning about unpublished new work is vital for a scientist to stay current in their discipline. Yet conferences have drawn minimal attention from historians and sociologists of science, whose analysis of scientific infrastructure has instead focused on formal scientific communication through journal articles and on-line forums, the formation of new disciplines and subfields, and shifting funding structures for academic and industrial labs. This article focuses on the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) as a case study of the significance of conferences to the scientific enterprise. We argue that GRC's growth is a product of internal and external factors: conferences stimulate intensive discussion and real-time peer review, new topics are chosen through a review process oriented to frontier areas of science, and the GRC format fosters intimacy among participants even as the overall size of the scientific enterprise expands. More generally, we seek to make visible the otherwise hidden role of conferences within scientific infrastructure.

Keywords: Conferences; Interpersonal Communication; Infrastructure; Science-Based Business; Social and Collaborative Networks;

Citation:

Daemmrich, Arthur A., and Leah Shaper. "The Gordon Research Conferences As Scientific Infrastructure." Bulletin for the History of Chemistry 33, no. 2 (2008): 94–102.