Producing novelty and securing credibility:
LHC experiments in STS-perspective
The project investigates LHC experiments from the perspective of Science and Technology Studies. It is motivated by the thesis that the increasing centralization, size, and complexity in particle physics experimentation are affecting the physicists’ work organization, epistemic practices, and regimes of creativity. The project moves two important epistemic issues into the center of attention: how novelty is produced in LHC experiments and how credibility is secured for research results. These two issues have traditionally been associated with separate contexts: the “context of discovery” and the “context of justification”. In contrast, this project suggests that the activities associated with novelty production and with credibility securing are intricately interconnected and should thus be analyzed jointly.
The project addresses three central issues:
- It analyzes how physicists search for “novel physics” in a regime of massively distributed work (collaborations of 3000 members) and how they handle the complex conditions of experimentation, e.g. in order to allow for “unexpected discoveries” (Subproject 1).
- It investigates how collaborations generate collectively agreed upon results. This involves the social production of consensus and of trust, specific and generic strategies of quality control (e.g. internal peer review), etc. (Subproject 2).
- It inquires into the interdependence of its two central issues, raising the question of how the practices of producing novelty and of securing credibility are interconnected, i.e. how the claims of novel results (or thelack thereof) are sustained.