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In 1975 Mulkay went further to argue that suggestions that science operates according to any norms (or counter-norms) were fundamentally inaccurate because there was little indication that the norms often cited were incorporated into reward or sanction structures. Rather than norms providing the central basis for determining conduct, they functioned as a selective ‘vocabulary of justification’ for projecting an image of science to outsiders. 18 Mulkay justified this conclusion about the ideological role of norms in large part by drawing on historical studies of the emergence of the notion of ‘pure science’ in the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Some sense has to be given of the real causes and consequences engendered by life science research in order to suggest what needs doing. While common enough in many policy analyses, many social scientists working within the ‘social problems’ tradition have questioned the appropriateness of what might be called an objectivist approach. Given that what is understood about the nature of any problem is the contingent result of the activities of individuals and groups (rather than a self-evident appreciation), a danger in taking (perhaps implicit) stances on the nature of problems is that social analysts end up making assumptions that should be questioned.

75 A variety of theoretical and empirical points were made to cast doubt on the suitability of the logic of weighing risks and benefits in the manner commonly suggested. While advances in knowledge and possible applications from research might be identified, substantiating the perils that might follow and the security benefits of constraints would be much more challenging since little appreciation existed about how research would be taken forward for malevolent ends. In addition, when appraisals would be made of whether misuse or counter-misuse ends were most served by a particular piece of research, this would almost certainly come down on the side of those countering threats since they would have vastly disproportional expertise and resources.

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