Article ID: CBB597105068

Functional informality: crafting social interaction toward scientific productivity at the Gordon Research Conferences, 1950–1980 (2023)


In the early and mid-twentieth century, scientific conferences were a popular tool to establish communication between scientists. Organisational efforts, research and funds were spent defining what makes a productive and successful scientific gathering. A unique example of this was the monitoring and evaluation system of the Gordon Research Conferences (GRCs), which conceptualized informal communication in small, specialized meetings as the best method of advancing cutting-edge research. Studying the detailed monitoring reports of the sessions and the evaluation forms filled by the participants, this paper explores how a concrete format of scientific knowledge production and identity formation was created and reproduced. The normative assessment of the participants’ interactions is examined in the contexts of (a) their professional affiliations, (b) the conference presentations and discussions and (c) activities related to play. The study of the GRCs exemplifies how scientists actively conceptualised characteristics like academic affiliation, manners, leisure practices and social categories such as gender as ways to understand, describe and measure how knowledge is best produced and transmitted, turning the conferences into a fertile ground for meta-scientific reflections.

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Article Charlotte Bigg; Jessica Reinisch; Geert Somsen; Sven Widmalm (2023) The art of gathering: histories of international scientific conferences. British Journal for the History of Science (pp. 423-433). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Casalena, Maria Pia
Bigg, Charlotte
Widmalm, Sven
Somsen, Geert
Mogavero, Valeria
Andretta, Elisa
British Journal for the History of Science
Bulletin for the History of Chemistry
History of Science
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Public Understanding of Science
Cierre edizioni
University of Pittsburgh Press
Congresses, conferences, and meetings
Science and society
Science and politics
International relations
Social networks
Haire, Norman
Hessen, Boris Mikhailovich
Hurtado de Mendoza, Diego
Polo, Marco
Leonor de Almeida Portugal, Marquise of Alorna
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century
16th century
Venice (Italy)
Padua (Italy)
United States
Rome (Italy)
The Nobel Foundation
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.)
University of Pennsylvania
Gordon Research Conferences

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