Learned societies


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Learned societies

  1. 1. Learned Societies as ‘Knowledge Cultures’: Emerging Public Knowledge Ecologies Michael A. Peters with Tina Besley University of Waikato
  2. 2. Frontispiece of Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal- Society, engraved by Wenceslaus Hellar in 1667. Source: National Portrait Gallery (UK)
  3. 3. The frontispiece  The frontispiece by Wenceslaus Hollar, after John Evelyn 1667, to The History of the Royal-Society of London (1667) by Thomas Sprat is a prime example of legitmation of a certain Baconian view of science.  It shows three figures: William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker, King Charles II, and Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban. The bust of Charles II, the Society's first patron is being crowned by a symbolical figure representing Fame. Viscount Brouncker, the first president (left) points to the inscription. Francis Bacon, (Viscount St. Alban), is located to the right. At Bacon's feet is the legend ‘Artium Instaurator’, reminding us of his Instauratio Magma.
  4. 4. History of the Royal-Society  “Sprat's History of the Royal-Society appeared in 1667, only five years after the fledgling Society was granted its Royal Charter and appointed its first President. Since there had not been much time for progress, Sprat concentrated on making grandiose claims for the future. To reinforce his message of Baconian improvement, Sprat included this engraving, even though it was too big to fit in his book without folding. Originally in a slightly different version, it had probably been designed as a broadsheet in the campaign to advertise the Royal Society and ‘to devise all wayes to revive Lord Bacons lustre.’”  Patricia Fara (2003)
  5. 5. Interpretation  In this allegorical picture, Charles II is being crowned with a laurel wreath by the winged Goddess of Fame, immediately identifiable by her trumpet. Above his head hangs the Society's coat of arms, with its motto Nullius in verba – take nothing on authority – and behind the President's back lies the Society's large ornate mace, made of silver and a gift from the King. Diplomatically, Charles has been given the most prominent position in the hope of securing further royal patronage, preferably in the form of financial support (his generosity was mainly restricted to supplying his Society with venison for anniversary meetings). To demonstrate the Fellows' Baconian faith in experiment, the elegant arches are adorned with measuring instruments and in the background lie two of the Royal Society's crowning achievements, a giant telescope and the airpump designed by the aristocratic chemist, Robert Boyle.
  6. 6. Interpretation  Elevated on his pillar, Charles is flanked by two figureheads who are identified but not named by the Latin words at their feet – the President and the Instaurator of the Arts (a more colloquial but anachronistic translation might be Promoter of Practical Science). This is a symbolic President: nominated by the King and here representing the Fellows of the Royal Society, his personal identity is irrelevant. He is timelessly draped in semi-classical attire, but the Society's ideological leader, Francis Bacon, is dressed in his old-fashioned Lord Chancellor's robes in the hope of attracting young lawyers to join the Society. The living President's gesture emphasizes the royal patron's importance, whereas Bacon is a guide from the past who indicates that instruments are the true source of knowledge.
  7. 7. Bacon’s Political Vision of Science  “The fons et origo of this discussion is Francis Bacon’s vision of a political order in which the class of scientists is given power by an enlightened ruler in his House of Solomon in “The New Atlantis” ([1627]1882 v.5: 347-413). This vision had a practical effect on the attempts by the Royal Society in London to distinguished itself by its methodological practices and internal governance as a type of political body in relation to the crown (Sprat [1667]1958: 321-438; Lynch 2001: 177-96; Shapin 1994), and to do the same with parallel institutions elsewhere in Europe (Hahn 1971: 1-34; Gillispie 2004). The Victorians made sure that Bacon would be best known for his ideas about induction as a method (cf. Peltonen 1996: 321-24) and, as his major German expositor put it, “how his whole nature was, in every way, instinctively opposed to verbal discussions” (Fischer 1857: 307). But Bacon’s extensive body of writings included not only writings on method, but also on “counsellors” to the crown, or experts, on the merits of republics, on the nature of political authority, on the proper internal organization of science, on funding and authority over science, and on collective research.”
  8. 8. Thomas Sprat (1667: 47) History the Royal Society “How few secrets have there been that have been long conceal'd from the whole World by their Authors? . . . There is no question at all, but all, or the greatest part [of them] will soon flow into this public Treasure.” Emerging themes of openness and public(ness) of knowledge and science; openness and secrecy; concepts of knowledge and property with the development of copyright and patents
  9. 9. Thomas Jefferson, 1813 “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without lessening mine.” Thomas Jefferson letter to Isaac Mcpherson, August 13, 1813, reprinted in H. A. Washington, ed., Writings of Thomas Jefferson 1790-1826, vol. 6 (Washington, D. C: Taylor & Maury, 1854), 180-81; quoted in Graham v. John Deere Company of Kansas, 383 U. S. 1, 8-9n.2 (1966). Theme of openness in relation to the ‘economy of ideas,’ ‘economics of abundance’, knowledge exchange and development, the ‘learning economy’
  10. 10. John Wesley Powell, 1886  “Possession of property is exclusive; possession of knowledge is not exclusive; for the knowledge which one man has may also be the possession of another. The learning of one man does not subtract from the learning of another, as if there were to be a limited quantity to be divided into exclusive holdings; so discovery by one man does not inhibit discovery by another as if there were a limited quantity of unknown truth; scholarship breeds scholarship, wisdom breeds wisdom, discovery breeds discovery…The laws of political economy that relate to property do not belong to the economics of science and intellectual progress. While ownership of property precludes other ownership of the same, ownership of knowledge promotes other ownership of the same, and when research is properly organized every man’s work is an aid to every other man’s.”  “(6) All Government research stimulates, promotes and guides private research,” Organizations of Certain Bureaus, Congressional Edition, Vol. 2345, (p. 1082), 1st session of 49th Congress, 1886  Letter from the Director of Geological Survey, J.W. Powell, (pp.1070-84), Department of Interior, Washington D.C.
  11. 11. Orientation This paper theorizes learned societies as “knowledge cultures” to enable a better historical understanding of the emergence of a network of knowledge institutions (the modern university, the research library, the museum, the laboratory) that came into existence (i) through and in relation to changing concepts of freedom, openness and scientific creativity involving the complex emergence of copyright and the history of intellectual property law (ii) through the process of peer production and governance of knowledge based on journal systems (iii) through the move from closed, secret societies to open learned societies exemplified in the shift from alchemy to experimental science It provides a focus on the Royal Society based on the inspiration of Francis Bacon and links to the public nature of science with the aim of demonstrating the role and contribution of scientific learned societies to a contemporary understanding of science as a global public good.
  12. 12. Aims 1. The paper provides a brief speculative history of the learned society, its enduring organization, and its theoretical relationship to the contemporary political economy of the knowledge economy; 2. reviews claims for new principles of knowledge organization based on emerging public knowledge ecologies and considers the strategic knowledge development of learned societies in the in the context of the digital age.
  13. 13. The Scholarly Societies Project  There are some 4,157 learned societies with 3,832 associated websites.  The oldest learned societies, some thirty of them, were established in the period 1323-1599 overwhelmingly in Italy (19 of 30), but also in France, England, Ireland, Scotland and Spain.  The oldest academy in Europe was established in 1323 seven wealthy men, “les sept Troubadours”, brought together poets writing in the langue d'Oc, to found Compagnie du Gai Sçavoir. Under Louis XIV, it became Académie des Jeux Floraux (Academy of Floral Games)
  14. 14. European Development  In the period 1600 to 1699 a further 43 societies were established again predominantly in Europe (mostly Italy) with some societies being founded in Germany. During this period the Royal Society of London was established (1660) and the establishment of national science academies followed soon after.
  15. 15. Renaissance Humanism James E. McClelland (2002)  “The organizational and institutional character of eighteenth-century learned societies developed from Renaissance antecedents and the humanist movement. By the fifteenth century, Renaissance humanism began to take on significant organizational and institutional dimensions, and hundreds of literary and fine arts societies sprang up outside the universities, wherever educated people gathered. Ficino’s Accademia Platonica, founded in Florence in 1442, is sometimes pointed to as the first of this new type of organization, although Michele Maylender signals the Accademia Aldina (1495), associated with the Aldine press, as the first formal ‘Renaissance’ academy.”
  16. 16. Learned societies created knowledge; universities transmitted it  The number of official learned societies grew exponentially after 1700 as part of a Europe-wide institutional movement. Among scientific societies, for example, the first half of the century witnessed the creation of the leading national institutions: London (1662), Paris (1666), Berlin (1700), Saint Petersburg (1724), Stockholm (1739), and Copenhagen (1742). Major provincial and regional societies arose at this time in Montpellier (1706), Bordeaux (1712), Bologna (1714), Lyons (1724), Dijon (1725, 1740), and Uppsala (1728). The period following 1750 saw the appearance of societies in lesser European states and provinces…
  17. 17. Rôle of Scientific Societies in the Seventeenth Century, Martha Ornstein (1928)  Before the seventeenth century there were no such places as laboratories except for chemistry which grew out of alchemy with its apothecaries, furnaces and glass containers. While her arguments rests on the importance of experiment and observation that further demanded precise measurement and ‘demonstrable facts’, introducing a dynamism into science, Ornstein does not place enough significance on the relationship between alchemy and chemistry in the birth of experimental science.
  18. 18. Renaissance academies The organizational and institutional character of eighteenth-century learned societies developed from Renaissance antecedents and the humanist movement. The Renaissance academies ‘changed [the] conditions for the organization of learning in the early modern period’ developing a civil and public function that developed charters and were official corporate bodies receiving financial support from the state. Unlike the universities they had no institutional goals and did no teaching. Learned societies in the eighteenth century were complimentary to universities: the former were responsible for creating knowledge while the later transmitted it.
  19. 19. Development of journal systems  Learned society journals in the natural sciences, while only about a quarter of all journals in the field, accounted for most of the important and original science.  The research journal beginning with The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1665 was controversial and ridiculed. Disputes of discoveries occurred often and discoveries were announced in the form of anagrams; peer review the cornerstone of academic publishing developed much later.  What is more, the societies became to formalize interorganizational links with other societies across national boundaries beginning in the mid-eighteenth century extending the idea of public institutions into a network of scientific agencies.  Many of the national societies formulated their research goals, undertook systematic research and sponsored expeditions.
  20. 20. Late Development of Peer Review  1752 Royal Society of London’s creation of a “Committee on Papers” to oversee the review and selection of texts (1731, Royal Society of Edinburgh)  In “From Book Censorship to Academic Peer Review” Mario Biagioli argues that the genealogy of peer review lie in seventeenth-century academic book publishing, and that peer review of journal articles formed a much later stage in the process’s development.  Biagioli ties the establishment of editorial peer review to the royal license that was required for the legal sale of printed texts; this mode of state censorship, employed to prevent sedition or heresy, was delegated to the royal academies through the imprimatur granted them at the time of their founding.
  21. 21. Peer review & state censorship  “No book be printed by order of the council, which hath not been perused and considered by two of the council, who shall report, that such book contains nothing but what is suitable to the design and work of the society” (RS Resolution 1663)  The purpose of such review, as Biagioli emphasizes, is more related to censorship than to quality control: “As in traditional book licensing, the review was about making sure that a text did not make unacceptable claims rather than to certify that it made good claims” (Biagioli 23).  “Gradually, however, scholarly societies facilitated a transition in scientific peer review from state censorship to self-policing, allowing them a degree of autonomy but simultaneously creating, in the Foucauldian sense, a disciplinary technology, one that produces the conditions of possibility for the academic disciplines that it authorizes.”  Fitzpatrick, K. (2009). Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy
  22. 22. The Rise of Public Science William Eamon (1985)  “Only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with the emergence of new technology, new institutions for the promotion of scientific activity, and institutional mechanisms to protect the interests of discoverers, did the conception of science as "public knowledge" take form. These developments resulted in changes in the mechanisms for the dissemination of scientific knowledge, and also in a transformation of the ethics governing the relationship between science and its public” (p. 321).
  23. 23. From secret to open societies  The ‘opening up’ of the closed world of medieval science based on secret societies and self-governing autonomous nature of universities that existed in self-imposed isolation to the printing press which revolutionized scientific communication and transformed the exchange, organization and governance of knowledge.  The concept of the right of intellectual property, guaranteed through patents and copyrights, emerged in response to a growing awareness that scientific knowledge could be put to practical use, and that as long as new discoveries were kept secret, the advance of knowledge, and hence profit, would be retarded (Eamon, 1985: 329).
  24. 24. New scientific knowledge  Learned societies had become the major vehicles for the creation of new scientific knowledge closely related to developments of journal systems and the dissemination of knowledge but also, perhaps more crucially, a commitment to the public nature science and knowledge. They became responsible for taking on civic functions of issuing standards in architecture, of popularizing standard works through dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference works.
  25. 25. Experimental Science in the Age of Magic  The beginnings of experimental science has its roots in the history of secret societies based on esoteric religion, alchemy and magic with a self-conscious lineage going back into the ancient world of Zarathrustra, the Persian priest, Pythagoras, and forms of neo-Platonism.  Secret societies developing in the Renaissance drew on the work of Hermes Trimegistus, forms of Gnosticism (gnosis meaning ‘knowledge’), the Cathars, the Knights Templar, forms of esoteric Judaism such as Cabalism and even aspects of the history of Shi’ite Islam.
  26. 26. Alchemy and science  Lauran Kassall (2001) records the books on alchemy underwent rapid growth during the sixty years after 1600 with ‘198 volumes containing 320 alchemical titles had been printed in English’ (p. 66). Kassall (2011) explains how Boyle and Newton had ‘rehabilitating alchemy, replacing her mystical green robes with the white coat of science’ and going on to write.  The Ashmolean (after Elias Ashmole) became the first university museum built in 1678–1683 to house the collection (including antique coins, books, engravings, geological specimens, and zoological specimens) Ashmole donated Oxford University in 1677. It became the first chemistry laboratory in England.
  27. 27. Alchemy as experimental philosophy  “In the late seventeenth century laboratory alchemy reached new heights of sophistication, prompted by, for instance, Johann van Helmont’s combination of Geberian corpuscularianism and Paracelsian vitalism. Alchemy became a subject identified with experimental philosophy. Weight superseded quality as a measure of chymical processes; salt began to be investigated as the secret of creation; and alchemical conventions of witnessing informed the notions of testimony established in the early Royal Society” (p. 62).
  28. 28. The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science John Henry (2002)  The natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, which had tended to remain aloof from mathematic and more pragmatic or experimental arts and sciences, became amalgamated with these other approaches to the analysis of nature, to give rise to something much closer to our notion of science (p. 5)
  29. 29. Francis Bacon’s ‘Experimentall Learning’ and the Rise of the Royal Society Francis Bacon “made no new discoveries, developed no technical innovations, uncovered no previously hidden laws of nature” yet nevertheless he is convinced of Bacon’s importance as “a philosopher of science — perhaps the first one who really mattered”. Henry (2002) He points to three key factors comprising Bacon’s importance: an insistence on experimental method rather than armchair speculation; the notion that a new knowledge of nature should be turned to the practical benefit of mankind; and the championing of inductive over deductive logic. “In a very real sense,” he concludes,“ Bacon invented modern science.”
  30. 30. Bacon and the Royal Society  As a civil servant Bacon believed in a useful science that can and should be pursued in the public interest under the aegis of the state, a vision he explains in the description of Solomon’s House in Bacon’s fable New Atlantis. He was the first to put forward a coherent view on how to use the power of modern science for the benefit of mankind aiming at power over nature in order to improve the human condition.
  31. 31. Science as a Public Good The concept of public good goes back at least to Adam Smith (1776) in maintaining public institutions and public works, and the argument for regarding science as a public good goes back explicitly to Bacon. Bacon, among his other insights, was perhaps the first to record his views on the human race” and “for virtually all time” (Bacon, 1620/2000, p. 99). He clearly saw the benefits of attempting to reach beyond national boundaries, as was evident in his treatment of three levels of ambition, the third of which was put in these terms: 6 “But if a man endeavor to establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the universe, his ambition . . . is without a doubt both a more wholesome thing and more noble than the other two”
  32. 32. Understanding the emergence of ‘open science’ institutions: functionalist economics in historical context Paul David (2004)  “The emergence during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries of the idea and practice of ‘open science’ represented a break from the previously dominant ethos of secrecy in the pursuit of‘ Nature’s secrets’. It was a distinctive and vital organizational aspect of the scientific revolution, from which crystallized a new set of norms, incentives and organizational structures that reinforced scientific researchers’ commitments to rapid disclosure of new knowledge.”
  33. 33. “Knowledge as a Global Public Good: The Role and Importance of Open Access”  “By doing away with technological, legal and monetary barriers to knowledge, the Open Access movement has created unprecedented possibilities to treat knowledge and science as global public goods, the benefits of which reach across borders and population groups. The OA and OS movements a play a crucial role in the emergence of a truly ‘global public’, which is principally unbound and not limited by spatial forms of integration of society. In the OA model, knowledge is public, non- exclusive and available for all to enjoy” (p. 163).
  34. 34. Learned Societies as ‘Knowledge Cultures’: Emerging public knowledge ecologies The learned society provides a model that is neither state nor market that has a long history of a commitment to public knowledge and science based on peer review and governance as an essential characteristic of science and scholarship, along with replicability, testability and the cultivation of a critical attitude that is the essence of peer review. Learned societies also provide a useful set of norms upon which to generalize and establish the learning society as a generalized science model committed to the public good. New models of open science and open knowledge production based on principles of global public goods and an ethos of sharing and collaboration create new transnational academic communities in global knowledge ecologies that intersect in novel ways (Peters, 2010a).
  35. 35. The future of scholarly publishing  The future of scholarly publishing that has been a subject of considerable debate in recent years, as the Internet disrupts traditional publishing business models. Open access poses a direct challenge to commercial publishing, however, this focus has tended to neglect broader and deeper questions about what we call ‘academic knowledge ecologies’, including questions of content development processes as well as their resourcing and sustainability. In this context ‘openness’ is a new code word for ‘public’ developed in terms of freedom and creativity. Strategic knowledge development requires an understanding of this changing historical context.
  36. 36. Academic renewal  What kinds of renewal do our academic knowledge systems require, in order to improve their quality, effectiveness and value as an integral part of the research and knowledge building infrastructure of the ‘knowledge economy’? How do new forms of openness promote the building of knowledge cultures? We address these questions through a range of issues that serve as the basis for future research
  37. 37. The issues 1. Pre-Publication Knowledge Validation 2. Prospects of Open Peer Review 3. Resourcing models and sustainability 4. Intellectual property and public good science 5. Distributed knowledge (and learning) systems 6. Disciplinarity and Interdisciplinarity 7. Modes of representation and signification 8. Globalism and Intercultural Publishing 9. Reconfiguring the role of learned societies and the university 10. Conditions of knowledge creation and distribution for a ‘knowledge economy’
  38. 38. The Future of Learned Societies  Learned societies have played a crucial role in this historical process and now face a bewildering array of experimental new technologies that will alter the process of research and scientific communication providing a range of new platforms for the creation of global public knowledge goods, redefining the shape, nature and purpose of the university in the process.