Mode 2

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Mode 2 is a term used in science research and was developed in 1994 by Helga Nowotny , Peter Scott , Michael Gibbons and others as a concept for describing the contemporary production of scientific knowledge.


According to the authors, parallel to the traditional form of science , which they call mode 1, a new model of scientific knowledge production developed, which they call mode 2. They describe the traditional concept as hierarchical , disciplinary , homogeneous and academic . In addition, Mode 1 provides for a strict separation between scientific and social actors. The aim is to generate scientifically proven knowledge. The conservative paradigm was finally supplemented by the new concept of knowledge production. The transition between the two models is fluid, both forms can coexist alongside and with one another.


Sciences operate globally today. Research takes place in time-limited projects and is problem-oriented, in accordance with the logic of research funding . This leads to an increasing transdisciplinary cooperation, which can lead to a relative openness in the research field . Growing international competition leads to an increase in national and international collaborations . In addition, knowledge should be distributed according to new perspectives.

The new type of knowledge production should enable not only more secure, but also socially more robust knowledge. It's highly contextualized . The market, society and other actors appear as integral components of the production of knowledge. It is transdisciplinary, heterogeneous, anti-hierarchical, faces social responsibility and a wide range of quality control. This also means that the relevance and quality are no longer determined exclusively by scientific institutions.


The authors speak of a change in the scientific system that became observable from the middle of the 19th century. The increasing commercialization of research resulted from increased private sector financing, which invested primarily in applied research. Knowledge thus became an economic asset and part of the globalization process . Researchers saw and still see themselves confronted with increasing scientific and social pressure to justify themselves as a result of the increased emergence of evaluation and rankings . There is a risk that the permanent control will also severely limit creativity and the choice of research topics and methods.

Evaluation surveys are mostly commissioned by organizations that finance the research. However, these clients of research evaluations are not experts themselves. In this context, Nowotny refers to the little attention paid to evaluating and imparting knowledge.


The picture of science drawn in Mode 2 can be explained, among other things, by the phenomenon of mass formation. The following academics find their jobs in the private sector, private research companies are increasingly serious competition for universities and state research institutions. The competition leads to a necessary redesign of the universities and their public appearance. In addition, there is a restructuring of knowledge by institutions that influence the production and handling of knowledge. This will create a new need for knowledge management and knowledge councils that determine priorities and the use of funds, the writers say. In addition, reference is made to the pioneering role of the human sciences in knowledge production: even before the change shown in Mode 2, it worked with specific reflection patterns that were not internalized in other scientific disciplines and were viewed critically.


The concept has aroused the interest of many researchers, but is also subject to some criticism.

According to several authors, Mode 2 mixes normative and descriptive elements. Shinn and Godin compare the model to a political ideology rather than an explanatory theory. (Godin 1998; Shinn 2002)

According to Hessels and van Lente, Mode 2 shows some important changes in the science system. These include, for example, its interactions with other areas of society or changes in the choice of research programs. However, the model fails because of conceptual problems. For example, there is no empirical evidence for the claims of mode 2. Its dynamics are also not universal, differ according to institutions, disciplines and nations. Some diagnoses of the concept are also questioned. For example the change in scientific method, laboratory ethics and epistemology . (Hessels, Van Lente 2008)

Finally, Hessels and van Lente call for investigations into the model's claim to transdisciplinarity or reflexivity. In the course of this, the following questions appear to be relevant: To what extent do scientific disciplines actually cooperate? Is a practice of flexible teamwork developing? Can we really speak of a new laboratory ethic? Are researchers becoming more aware of the social impact of their work? (Hessels, Van Lente 2008)

In addition, the existence of a verifiable change in the quality assurance of scientific research (Hessels, Van Lente 2008) and, according to Rip, its organizational diversity should also be questioned. (Rip 2002)

Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff describe Mode 2 as the original preparation of science, before its academic institutionalization in the 19th century. The model represents the original organizational and institutional basis of research, consisting of networks and working groups. It therefore represents the starting point of science. Mode 1 was built on this basis to justify scientific autonomy. (Etzkowitz, Leydesdorff 2000)

Fuller criticizes the erroneous dating of Nowotny, Scott, Gibbons and others, who associate the first model with the 17th century. In fact, both mode 1 and mode 2 were institutionalized in the 19th century. (Fuller 2000)


  • Henry Etzkowitz, Loet Leydesdorff : The dynamics of innovation: from National Systems and "Mode 2" to a Triple Helix of university-industry-government relations . In: Research Policy . 29, 2000, pp. 109-123.
  • Steve Fuller : The Governance of Science . Open University Press, Buckingham 2000.
  • Michael Gibbons et al: The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies . Sage, London 1994.
  • Benoit Godin: Writing performative history: the new 'new Atlantis'? . In: Social Studies of Science . 28, 1998, pp. 465-483.
  • Helga Nowotny among others: Mode 2 revisited: The New Production of Knowledge . In: Minerva . 41, 2003, pp. 179-194.
  • Arie Rip: Science for the 21st century . In: Tindemans, P., Verrijn-Stuart, A., Visser, R .: The Future of Science and the Humanities . Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2002, pp. 99-148.
  • Terry Shinn: The Triple Helix and new production of knowledge: prepackaged thinking on science and technology . In: Social Studies of Science . 32, 2002, pp. 599-614.

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