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Research on Gravitational Waves

Funded by UK Economic and Social Research Council: Recent grants:

1995 --- 1996 [R000235603] Life After Death of Scientific Ideas

1996 --- 2001 [R000236826] Physics in Transition

2002 --- 2005 [R000239414] Founding a New Astronomy

Two Passages of Fieldwork

1972 - 1976: Interviews in USA and Europe about the Weber claims

1993/4 - and onwards: A more complete study of ground-based detectors intended to continue a year or two beyond confirmation of existence of GW

The Nature of the Research

The research is based on attendance at conferences, and committee meetings, site visits, recorded and unrecorded informal discussions, recorded and unrecorded interviews, telephone calls, email exchanges, and examination of archives (eg, at Smithsonian and NSF).

Relativism

Methodological relativism is a principle of the research. This means that, as a sociologist, I avoid making judgments about those matters of science which are the subject of social analysis. My working assumption is that everyone - right or wrong - is nearly always acting rationally. (For example, even though almost everyone considers that Weber’s 1984ff theory of cross-sections is wrong, I try discuss its reception in ways that are neutral in respect of its scientific value.)

This approach does not reflect the way scientists think about their work, nor the way I think about the work of my fellow social scientists.

Acknowledgement

I am grateful to the many scientists who have read and commented on drafts of papers, whether they were directly involved or not, and to the many other respondents for helpful feedback on the papers that discuss their work. I am, of course, deeply indebted to the gravitational wave community as a whole for allowing me to share in this great scientific adventure.