Health Care Advancement and Scientific Development Analysis

Afza.Malik GDA

Scientific Development Analysis in Health Care  

Health Care Advancement and Scientific Development Analysis

Scientific Development,Controversies about Scientific Development,Modern Science and Theoretical Perspectives,Inductivism,Research Program for Scientific Development Analysis,Methods of Analysis,Development by Revolution.

Scientific Development

    Scientific development is a term defining the process of producing and making available new knowledge through testing theories against empirical reality in order to solve problems. The term scientific is used as an attribute of the human knowledge interpreting natural, social, economic, historical, and psychological systems as parts of the empirical world. 

    Scientific knowledge consists of systems of theories able to explain and solve scientific problems. Its essence is testing ability (Popper, 1969); it requires agreement among individuals about the nature of the problem and the validity of the explanation.

Controversies about Scientific Development 

    Controversies exist about what scientific knowledge is. For instance, the traditional empirical rationalism perspective holds the position that knowledge is scientific only when it has passed certain rigorous standards of method. 

    Thus, only when reality has been defined in a measurable way and tested under sufficiently controlled conditions as an “objective” phenomenon (well protected from the investigators' subjective biases) can the knowledge generated be defined as scientific and therefore valid and reliable. 

    Deductive reasoning facilitates objectivity by discouraging examination of a phenomenon in light offending from previous research, conceptualizations contributed by other scholars, and testing of more than one prediction. 

    In this perspective, scientific knowledge progresses by a process of formulating bold conjectures and then subjecting them to equally bold criticism and test.

    The main criticism against empirical rationalism comes from the phenomenological perspective originated by prominent philosophers such as Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau Ponty. From the phenomenological point of view, it does not make sense to objectify our knowledge because reality consists of the meanings one assigns throughout experiences. 

    Therefore, to the phenomenologist there is no reality separated from the interaction of a person as a perceiving, meaning giving being. Reality cannot be known independently of a person's experience with all its meanings: 

    “My knowledge of the world, even my scientific knowledge, is gained from my own particular point of view, or from some experience of the world without which the symbols of science would be meaningless” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, p. vii).

 Modern Science and Theoretical Perspectives

    The development of modern science can be defined from different theoretical perspectives; each one provides a rational framework (or methodology) for understanding the historical development of human science. 

    Each framework provides a set of rules for the validation of testable theories; those rules also can be used as criteria for demarcation between common and scientific knowledge. At least four different frameworks can be identi fied, each one characterized by a specific set of rules finalized to accept or reject theories or research programs.


    Inductivism dictates that only those propositions describing hard facts or true generalizations of those facts (or very probable generalizations in the neo inductivist version) can be accepted as scientific. Inductivism's basic assumption is that primitive propositions can be derived directly from facts, and it has been widely criticized. 

    An inductivist accepts a scientific proposition when proved true; otherwise, it will be rejected. This approach has a very strict scientific rigor: a proposition has to be demonstrated by facts or inductively deductively derived from propositions proved to be true. 

    However, inductivism does not offer any explanation about directions of the scientific development, nor can it rationally explain the reasons for the main scientific progress of humankind.

    Conventionalism defines science development as the building of systems organizing facts into a consistent whole. When inconsistencies arise, a conventionalist changes or modifies the system, assuming that it can be considered true or false by convention. 

    According to this approach, science develops by accumulation on the level of facts and progresses through simplifications or better conventional explanations. 

    For example, Einstein's theory was progressive because it provided a simpler explanation than former theories. For a conventionalist, false assumptions can lead to true conclusions; Therefore, false theories may have great predictive power (this is a solid philosophical position, not to be confused with instrumentalism). 

    Under conventionalism any idea can be acceptable and used for scientific inquiry; what cannot be used is not considered nonscientific, as in the inductivist approach.

    Falsifications admit that the basic assumptions about facts can be accepted by agreement, but this does not apply to the theories. According to this approach, a theory is scientific only if it can be tested against a basic assumption or if it can be experimentally falsified. 

    Thus, a theory must be rejected if it conflicts with accepted assumptions. Popper (1969) stated that, in order to be considered scientific, a theory has to predict new facts (new because they are not considered by other rival theories), has to be empirically testable, and must not be adjustable with ad hoc hypotheses. In the latter, more conventionalist version of this approach, some i nductive principles are accepted.

    Falsifications define the development of science as a process of falsifying the dominant theories: behind each important discovery there is a theory proved false. Scientific development is related to the importance of the falsified theories; the more important they are, the more progress that has been made.

Research Program for Scientific Development Analysis 

    Research programs have been proposed by Lakatos (1968) as methods of analysis for scientific development. Research programs are identified as testable results in terms of progressive and regressive "problem shifts." Scientific revolutions consist in substitution of a research program with a more advanced one. 

    According to this approach, a positive heuristic has to dictate the choice of problems for research instead of anomalies or incoherences, as in the falsificationism and inductivism methodologies. Therefore, the development of scientific theories is characterized by high degrees of freedom and is not influenced by the dominant paradigms. 

    Thus, a research program progresses because its theoretical development anticipates the empirical one. It is regressing when it can provide only post hoc explanations because the empirical development is predominant over the theoretical one.

    Each one of the four frameworks defines scientific development in a specific way. However, each perspective has to be integrated by external empirical theories able to explain the non-rational factors involved in scientific development, such as the social context and the historical period, because these are powerful forces driving or opposing any scientific development.

Methods of Analysis

A method of analysis that can define how knowledge evolves is essential for understanding scientific development in general as well as in a particular disciplinary field. Three approaches can be proposed to understand nursing's scientific development: (a) revolution, (b) evolution, and (c) integration

Development by Revolution

    Development by Revolution. The concept of revolution was first used by Kant (1781/ 1991) to explain his idea that from an initial revolution a discipline will find a secure path for its scientific development. 

    Kuhn (1970) introduced the idea that, under particular circumstances, the whole traditional paradigm (all theories, methods, applications, and instruments made available throughout a consistent tradition of research) is subject to change, not just a theory or a research program. 

    Important progress in scientific development is possible through a series of transitions, from crisis or revolutions to normal science, when members of the field accept in a unified way a common, dominant paradigm (later defined as disciplinary matrix). Using a revolutionary perspective, nursing is in a preparadigmatic stage. 

    Because there may not be periods of normal science (even if nursing knowledge is progressing), it is possible that the nursing scientific revolution may never come (Meleis, 1997).

    Development by Evolution. In this approach, knowledge progress is a gradual process of change and differentiation toward a higher level of complexity. It is a process of generating new ideas in continuity with the old ones and therefore accumulating knowledge following a well-defined course. Propositions of one theory are used as premises for another; they are tested against practice, and vice versa. 

    As in the Darwinian process, environment continuously challenges the existent theories, and only the ones that interpret and meet its demands can temporarily survive. Using this approach to nursing, environmental demands for scientific development come from its practice and the scientific community. However, to date in nursing there are no recognizable trends of systematic development by accumulation.

    Development by integration. According to this approach, new ideas and theories are generated simultaneously without following any specific path. Thus, it is more than a process of testing, accepting, and rejecting theories; it is a process of developing agreement or disagreement about phenomena and methodologies that are most congruent with the subject matter of nursing. 

    It follows, from this perspective, that nursing is greatly affected by external factors; nurse scientists gain insights mostly from the ongoing scientific developments in other fields. 

    Therefore, nursing scientific development proceeds through a process of borrowing and repatterning ideas and theories across disciplines, as well as developing new ideas and differentiating them from the traditional ones; all are competing and coexisting. 

    From an evolutionist perspective, nursing has not accumulated enough knowledge to deserve the status of discipline; from an integrationist perspective, nursing is a discipline because it is able to provide new questions and answers, including repatterning, inventing, and testing knowledge through research and practice.


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