Observing replications in the making: Lab-ethnography with USPN team members

This short report was written by NanoBubbles team member Candida Sanchez Burmester, PhD candidate in Science and Technology Studies in Maastricht University.

One part of my PhD project is to observe the NanoBubbles replication project from a social science perspective. For these observations I use lab-ethnography, which is a method to study science in the making. Since last year June, I have been visiting the team of the replication project regularly to gain insights into their work. I am interested in how their daily life in the replication project looks like, often paying attention to things that are probably very ordinary for the team members and for other scientists like them. One purpose of my visit was to gain enough familiarity that they start to seem ordinary to me too. But as a laboratory ethnographer I also aim to keep an outsider’s perspective, so that things that seem ordinary to people in the lab can be questioned and made strange.

With every visit I learn new aspects about the scientific practices of the scientists and their work environment. This time I spent five days with the team in Bobigny and felt very lucky to experience various different events, meetings and conversations. Together with the team members I attended, for example, a presentation by a company’s representative who introduced a new commercial scientific instrument that is meant to measure cell-molecule and molecule-molecule interactions. Even though I often have a hard time understanding the scientific details, it was interesting to observe how the speaker presented the device; which questions were asked by the audience, including members of the replication project; how the speaker gave sometimes similar (seemingly scripted) answers to very different questions; and on which specific topics the speaker could not provide any information due to confidentiality reasons.

It was also interesting to observe how the Bobigny team is working on the selection process of articles from which they will choose specific experiments that they will replicate. I could attend formal meetings where updates on the selection process were discussed, sometimes also in collaboration with other NanoBubbles members. Being in the same space as the scientists allowed me to also observe more informal discussions among them, which provided valuable insights into what the team members consider relevant, feasible and (im)possible for their replication efforts.

Comparing my insights from different visits, it is interesting to see how the replication project changes over time, with new members joining, selection criteria being added and specified, and social bonds strengthening.

Cite this blog post
ztoure (2023, March 31). Observing replications in the making: Lab-ethnography with USPN team members. NanoBubbles . Retrieved June 15, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/rqwf

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