Laboratory and Social Science Research

tuktuk By tuktuk, 14th Nov 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Essays

This is a article on differences between social science research and laboratory based research. We have highlighted the motive behind undertaking any research and explained what it takes to be a researcher.

Core differences between social and lab research

Research is social sciences have some distinctive features compared to other streams of knowledge gathering, viz. laboratory based researches. There are numerous evidences where people suggest a generic methodology for all sorts of research. The fact that social sciences are studies on society, and societies are more dynamic than controlled laboratories; a research design in social sciences like economics or gender studies require more sophistication as well as dynamic adaptability than researches done in completely controlled laboratory based researches. Since the researcher herself is inherently a part of the society itself, it poses even more difficulties for the social scientist to look at things very objectively. Moreover, the implications of mistakes done by researchers are very different in social sciences and natural sciences. In purely laboratory based sciences, the researcher ultimately invents a process or a product for industrial use. But in social sciences, the output of a researcher is often some policy suggestions.
The primary motive and sponsorship behind almost all laboratory based researches have been to achieve military and industrial edge over others. Although, in the process of developing items for military as well as money making industrial purposes; laboratory based researchers have also developed some useful goods for the society.
On the other hand, the sponsorship motives behind most social science researches have been political and social rather than industrial and military.
Most of the efforts by German chemical scientist and Nobel laureate Firtz Haver (1918-19) had been development of poisons and poisonous gases for the use as mass killing. In fact, Firtz Haber himself directed a chemical war mission of Germany during the First World War. Haber is often considered as the father of chemical warfare. The purpose of developing using chemical weapons during First World War was twofold. One, to produce a weapon that may kill many people simultaneously without using expensive bullets and help the military regime reduce expenditure on bullets and other weapons for killing enemies. Two, while enemies are to be killed; it may seem beneficial to save the buildings and infrastructure in the enemy territory that can be reused after occupation. Among most of the killer weapons developed by Haber were gases like Zyklon B (popularly known as cyclon-B or cyanide) which was later used by Hitler’s death squad SS to undertake low cost killing exercises of around 1.2 million people in Concentration Camps of Second World War. It believed that the people killed with Zyklon-B also include some of the family members of Firtz Haber who was a Jew and Hitler disliked him. Stories apart, the point is, while Firtz Haber spent his entire life to develop poisonous gases and chemical weapons, but in the process of his research on gases, he also developed a mechanism of artificial synthesis of nitrogen that was later used to develop a popular chemical fertiliser called urea. It is believed that almost half of the nitrogen in our body is coming through factories that produce urea in Haber process of nitrogen synthesis (Daniel. 2005, Scott 2010. Green and McCarthy 2000).

So, the point is, wrong approaches both in laboratory based as well as social science researches can lead to devastating impacts for the mankind. While it is possible to identify the culprit in laboratory based researches, in case of social science researches, it may not be the case.
The failure of the laboratory researcher and her ignorance about the long term impacts of the successful inventions they propose to the industrial world may fail them in their career or mistakes done by them make them infamous. The point is, a laboratory based researcher still remains accountable and can be trialed for her mistakes and failures. But a failure of the social scientist in making right policy suggestions will fail the society for generations even if it may not affect the career of the researcher and in many instances may boost the career prospects if such wrong suggestions make the policy regime achieve their short term goals. Therefore, researchers in social sciences need to be more skilful and careful in designing their researches than their natural science counterparts. It is difficult for a social scientist to achieve this with adequate certainty. What a typical researcher is social science may require is not just a deep understanding of her core subject area, but also a thorough understanding about evolutionary social dynamics of the particular section(s) of the society under study as well as all natural processes possibly impacting the evolutionary social dynamics. In very interdisciplinary subjects of social science such as economics, psychology or gender studies, a researcher may also need a working knowledge of all relevant other fields of knowledge cutting across both social and natural sciences. For example, a researcher in gender studies not only needs to know about the social relations, but also have to have a thorough understanding of psychology, geography, hormones and what not! All these may pose challenges for a budding researcher in social science. But with repeated attempts of iterative processes of re-examination of situations, one may develop the skills of understanding the society in a manner better than before. The skillsets grow with every attempt and every attempt of research is unique in its nature and scope.

Photos: (1) Naked and starved captives in Concentration camps, (2) Hair collected from Jews to make winter uniforms for Nazi soldiers (3) Mass killiong of people without spending money on bullets (4) Label of Zyklon-B termed as Giftgas

The current article is an abridged version of an earlier article written by me and published at for the original article, one may visit HERE.


Research, Research And Analysis, Research Decision, Research Paper, Researcher, Researchers, Researches

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I am a happy person with a loving spouse and an amazing kid. I love music (informal and folk) and participate in debates. I also manage a site

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