Shaping ScienceOrganizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

Shaping ScienceOrganizations, Decisions, and Culture on NASA's Teams

Janet Vertesi

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226691084

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


In Shaping Science, Janet Vertesi draws on a decade of immersive ethnography with NASA’s robotic spacecraft teams to create a comparative account of two great space missions of the early 2000s. Although these missions appear to feature robotic explorers on the frontiers of the solar system, bravely investigating new worlds, their commands were issued from millions of miles away by a very human team. By examining the two teams’ formal structures, decision-making techniques, and informal work practices in the day-to-day process of mission planning, Vertesi shows just how deeply entangled a team’s local organizational context is with the knowledge they produce about other worlds. Using extensive, embedded experiences on two NASA spacecraft teams, this is the first book to apply organizational studies of work to the laboratory environment in order to analyze the production of scientific knowledge itself. Engaging and deeply researched, Shaping Science demonstrates the significant influence that the social organization of a scientific team can have on the practices of that team and the results they produce.