Mertonian norms

Mertonian norms

CUDOS is an acronym used to denote principles that should guide good scientific research. According to the CUDOS principles, the scientific ethos should be governed by Communalism, Universalism, Disinterestedness, Originality and Scepticism.

CUDOS is based on the Mertonian norms introduced in 1942 by Robert K. Merton.[1] Merton described "four sets of institutional imperatives [comprising] the ethos of modern science".

In contemporary academic debate the modified definition outlined below is the most widely used (e.g. Ziman 2000).[2]

  • Communalism entails that scientific results are the common property of the entire scientific community.
  • Universalism means that all scientists can contribute to science regardless of race, nationality, culture, or gender.
  • Disinterestedness according to which scientists should not present their results entangled with their personal beliefs or activism for a cause. Scientists should have an arms-length attitude towards their findings.
  • Originality requires that scientific claims contribute something new, whether a new problem, a new approach, new data, a new theory or a new explanation.[3]
  • Skepticism (Organized Skepticism) Skepticism means that scientific claims must be exposed to critical scrutiny before being accepted.

The similar sounding term kudos is derived from classical Greek and means fame and renown resulting from an act of achievement; and by extension is often used as a praising remark.


As a balance to the Mertonian norms, the following counter-norms are often discussed [4]

  • Solitariness (secrecy, miserism) is often used to keep findings secret in order to be able to claim patent rights, and in order to ensure primacy when published.
  • Particularism is the assertion that whilst in theory there are no boundaries to people contributing to the body of knowledge, in practice this is a real issue, particularly when you consider the ratio of researchers in rich countries compared with those in poor countries, but this can be extended to other forms of diversity. In addition, scientists do judge contributions to science by their personal knowledge of the researcher.
  • Interestedness arises because scientists have genuine interests at stake in the reception of their research. Well received papers can have good prospects for their careers, whereas as conversely, being discredited can undermine the reception of future publications.
  • Dogmatism because careers are built upon a particular premise (theory) being true which creates a paradox when it comes to asserting scientific explanations.

See also


  1. ^ Merton 1973
  2. ^ Ziman 2000
  3. ^ Ziman 2000
  4. ^ Mitroff 1974
  • Merton, R.K. (1942) The Normative Structure of Science In: Merton, Robert King (1973). The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226520919. OCLC 755754. 
  • Mitroff, Ian I (1974) Norms and Counter-Norms in a Select Group of the Apollo Moon Scientists: A Case Study of the Ambivalence of Scientists American Sociological Review (39)4:579-595 [1]
  • Ziman, John (2000). Real Science: what it is, and what it means. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521772297. OCLC 41834678. 

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