Changing articulations of relevance in soil science: Diversity and (potential) synergy of epistemic commitments in a scientific discipline

Lisa Sigl, Ruth Falkenberg, Maximilian Fochler

Veröffentlichungen: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelPeer Reviewed


This paper traces how the self-understanding of soil science has changed in relation to ideas of societal relevance and academic legitimacy. While soil science was established as an academic discipline with strong links to agriculture, this link was largely lost around 1980. This led to a perceived crisis of the discipline, which has been followed by a long process of redefining its self-understanding. Building on document analysis and qualitative interviews, this paper traces five ways in which soil scientists have re-articulated the relevance of soil science, and analyses if and how these re-articulations are linked to new kinds of research practices and new self-understandings of soil science as a discipline. We conceptualise these re-articulations of relevance as different epistemic commitments that have provided soil scientists with a repertoire of relating their research to societal and environmental problems. At the same time, we also highlight how this epistemic diversity has created tensions in the discipline's self-understanding. Related to recent calls to further integrate different kinds of soil-related knowledge, we argue that these tensions still need to be turned into productive interaction to create synergy instead of competition between different ways of articulating relevance—allowing different kinds of soil-related research to thrive, both in their distinct regimes of relevance, and in a fruitful co-production. This paper shows that studies of how ways of articulating relevance change over time can provide new insights to debates about what conditions support science in gaining societal relevance.
Seiten (von - bis)79-90
FachzeitschriftStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Feb. 2023

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