The Leibniz Center for Science and Society pursues four main objectives.
(1) The interdisciplinary analysis of the interactions between science and society.
Interactions are understood as an interplay of movements and counter-movements (Burke). Robert K. Merton raised two fundamental questions for Science Studies, which, in a similar vein, are also directed towards Higher Education Research: "What are the modes of interplay between society, culture, and science? Do these vary in kind and extent in differing historical contexts?” (Merton 1970: 175). The aim of the Leibniz Center's first research objective is guided by those two general questions: 1) How and why are science and higher education transforming in modern societies? 2) What are the implications of those transformations for modern societies? To accomplish this objective, the LCSS utilizes a broad theoretical basis and pursues a theoretical synthesis across various academic disciplines, focusing especially on philosophy, sociology, political science, law, and economics.
(2) The systematic linking of theory and data
Science Studies and Higher Education Research are confronted with the necessity of constructing new mental figures, categories, and classifications, which can only emerge by linking theoretical and methodological research. These should consider the specifics of universities and science, on the one hand, and offer the opportunity to embed science in a wider social context (i.e., social structure, economic or political transformations), on the other. So far, both science studies and higher education research have oftentimes borrowed mental figures, categories, and classifications from other research areas, such as school, education, or organization studies. New mental figures, categories, and classifications need to be developed to empirically study the interactions between science and society with regard to contemporary changes and transformations.
(3) Bringing higher education research and science studies closer together
For this purpose the LCSS primarily takes two steps: First, positioning Science Studies and Higher Education Research in a perspective focused on their particular cores; second, identifying central overlapping areas between Higher Education Research and Science Studies. While the core of Science Studies is defined as “the independence of research,” Higher Education Research is viewed as representing different forms of educational processes. Such a framework enables a systematic analysis of issues and problems. But, above all, this framework goes beyond a descriptive understanding, identifying theoretically driven attributions along institutions or organizations, such as higher education or research institutions. The identified overlapping areas are a result of the urge to relate those perspectives to one another. Accordingly, the theoretical and methodological concepts of Higher Education Research and Science Studies need to be connected. An example of such an important overlapping area is the study of young researchers. This analysis would not only entail PhD students, but also post-docs and qualification processes outside academia, which are typical, e.g., for engineers. Further overlapping areas are the combination of research and teaching or the interaction between research and the broader public, focusing on public understanding of science. A key goal of the LCSS is to identify and address further overlapping areas.
(4) Establishing a structured graduate program
The LCSS has established the graduate school “Science and Society” because universities currently do not offer training programs for young researchers in the field of Higher Education Research and Science Studies. The graduate school entails a broad interdisciplinary spectrum of Higher Education Research and Science Studies. Especially the five disciplines of the LCSS are represented: sociology, political science, philosophy, law, and economics. The topics of the PhD theses address four research areas of the LCSS: epistemology, legitimation and normativity, functional differentiation, and social differentiation. The graduate school is jointly operated with the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW).
Merton, Robert K. (1979): The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.