Essential Tension: Tradition And Innovation In Scientific Research

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1.1 The Essential Tension Kuhn's paper The Essential Tension: Tradition and Innovation in Scientific Research was presented at the Third University of Utah Research Conference on the Identification of Creative Scientific Talent held in 1959. The conference was concerned with identifying predictors of creative personality in order to speed up the progress and advancement of science. This is a dominant view of scientific progress in which science progresses through unrestricted imagination and divergent thinking. However, Kuhn emphasized that such type of thinking is only responsible for some scientific progress. In contrast to the conference's concerns, he proposed that convergent thinking plays a fundamental role in scientific progress.…show more content…
By solving problems very similar to the generally accepted paradigms, the student of natural sciences is trained to be a convergent thinker.

Kuhn claimed that natural sciences have not always been characterized by firm educational system conducted through generally accepted paradigms. Instead, each discipline has come to that status at some point of its history. This is happened when the discipline achieved a first consensus. The preconsensus phase, however, is characterized by the competition of different schools. Each school considers particular range of phenomena and attempts to defend its special approach. As a result, this divergent practice of science did not produce rapid and systematic progress.

That sort of progress is characteristic of convergent or paradigm-based research. Kuhn mentioned the types of research problems undertaken by scientists of mature sciences:
(i) Bringing theoretical predictions and experimental results into closer
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Kuhn thought that no other sort of work than this tradition-bound one is so well suited to isolate and recognize anomalies that cause crises in science. In other words, normal research provides the background that enables scientists to identify crisis-provoking anomalies: "In the mature sciences the prelude to much discovery and to all novel theory is not ignorance, but the recognition that something has gone wrong with existing knowledge and beliefs." Therefore, the ultimate effect of normal research is invariably to change the tradition.

This is the essential tension in scientific research. A scientist should adhere to the traditional work that is governed and guided by generally accepted paradigms. But at the same time he should be open-minded to recognize anomalies and be ready to abandon the tradition when an alternative one that is capable to solve the anomalies is introduced. "[T]he productive scientist must be a traditionalist who enjoys playing intricate games by preestablished rules in order to be a successful innovator who discovers new rules and new pieces with which to play
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