Social Construction of Trust to Protect Ideas and Data in Space Science and Geophysics

Lynne G. Zucker, Michael R. Darby

NBER Working Paper No. 5373
Issued in December 1995
NBER Program(s):Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

This paper applies a rational action/economic sociology approach to the central organizational theory question of whether action is embedded in pre-formed institutions that are relatively cheap in terms of time and energy, or to what extent action becomes embedded in newly constructed institutions that are more costly but perhaps better adapted to task goals. We develop a new model of the social construction of trust-producing social structure based on the initial endowment of this structure, the demand for it, and the cost of social construction. We test the model with data on construction of social structure in collaborations in space science and geophysics developed in a large number of interviews conducted by the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. We do find that greater pre-existing endowment reduces social construction of new institutions while greater demand for trust increases that construction. We also find some evidence that social construction of trust-producing social structure in fact results in production of higher value science.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5373

Published: Lynne G. Zucker and Michael R. Darby, “Sociological Analysis of Multi-Institutional Collaborations in Space Science and Geophysics,” in Joan Warnow-Blewett, Anthony J. Capitos, Joel Genuth, and Spencer R. Weart, with contributions by Frederik Nebeker, Lynne Zucker, and Michael Darby, AIP Study of Multi-Institutional Collaborations, Phase II: Space Science and Geophysics. Report No. 2: Documenting Collaborations in Space Science and Geophysics, College Park, MD: American Institute of Physics, 1995

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