Robert Evans
Cardiff School of Social Sciences

The Third Wave of Science Studies

It has to be noted that the paper published by Harry Collins and myself in Social Studies of Science in April 2002 did generate some controversy (to put it mildly!). References and links to the original paper, the three critical responses, the one positive response and our reply to them all can be found at the bottom of this page.

Perhaps because of the controversy, or perhaps because it contains some good ideas, the Three Wave paper has become one of the most cited papers in Social Studies of Science. For example, the Sage website generally includes it in the top 5 most cited articles (check this claim!); and google scholar reported over 170 citations in December 2007 (get the latest figure here!). The work has also featured in Nature and in the Times Higher Eduction Supplement and the original paper has now been reprinted in an edited collection on The Philosophy of Expertise.

As the initial controversy has subsided it appears that at least some of the initial ideas, particularly those relating to interactional expertise, are becoming more accepted. In addition to its increasing using within the STS literature, the idea has appeared in journals covering topics ranging from the environment to neuropsychology and engineering to journalism. Interactional expertise is, therefore, one of a long tradition of STS concepts that now circulates outside the core journals of the discipline.

Further evidence of this can found in two significant developments. The first is the award of an ERC Advanced Research Grant to Professor Harry Collins to develop the Imitation Game as a new method for comparative research; a method that depends entirely on the idea of interactional expertise. The second is the co-location of the 2013 SEESHOP (SEESHOP7) with the Communities of Practice workshop in Tempe, Arizona, thus making explicit the links between SEE and other research projects interested in the ways expertise is created, shared and used.


Collins, H M and Evans, R J (2002) ‘The Third Wave of Science Studies: Studies of Expertise and Experience’, Social Studies of Sciences, 32 (2): 235-96. <>.
Reprinted in Evan Selinger and Robert P. Crease (eds) (2006) The Philosophy of Expertise, New York: Columbia University Press. Pp. 39-110.

Collins, H. M., &; Evans, R. J., (2003) 'King Canute Meets the Beach Boys: Responses to The Third Wave', Social Studies of Science, 33,3, 435-52 [June].<>

Gorman, Michael (2002) 'Levels of Expertise and Trading Zones', Social Studies of Science, 32,6, 933-938 [December]. <>

Jasanoff, Sheila (2003) 'Breaking the Waves in Science Studies', Social Studies of Science, 33,3, 389-400 [June]. <>

Rip, Arie (2003) 'Constructing Expertise in a Third Wave of Science Studies?', Social Studies of Science, 33, 3, 419-434 [June]. <>

Wynne, Brian (2003) 'Seasick on the Third Wave? Subverting the Hegemony of Propositionalism', Social Studies of Science, 33, 3, 401-417. [June]. <>


Last updated on 2013-11-25

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