Journal article Open Access
Both our understanding of the term “science”, and that which it is employed to refer to, have undergone significant changes over the centuries. The 20th century, in particular, has seen important transformations within science and, in consequence, heated debate. One important transformation, rarely noticed by philosophers of science, has been the emergence of large-scale research projects of the sort often referred to as “big science”. Such projects require science to be organized, and function, in quite new ways. Their influence upon science, construed as an activity and an institution, has been very great indeed - as has been their impact on our understanding of what it is that such activities ultimately produce (theories, hypotheses). The aim of this article is to identify and spell out the philosophical aspects of this scenario as it pertains to science. I begin with an outline of the historical development of big science. Then, with reference to other scholars, I try to establish a definition of it. I briefly point to some developments in 20th century philosophy of science, and argue for the need to construct a distinctive philosophy of big science itself. The latter, I claim, should construe the philosophy of science in terms broad enough to be adequate for the analysis of a number of issues emerging in the context of the most developed branches of the natural sciences. I review a selection of these issues in the last part of my article.