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How facts travel: The model systems of sociology
The discussion in the sociology of science about the role of model systems in biology provides an invitation to reflect on whether and how similar devices operate in sociology. This paper shows that sociology relies on objects of study that receive a disproportionate amount of attention and implicitly come to stand in for a specific class of objects. But, unlike other disciplines, sociology has no agreed language or theory to classify the discipline-specific objects that it studies, which hinders explicit reflection on the use of model systems across sociological subfields. In contrast to other disciplines, which use model systems, physical copies of sociological model systems usually do not travel. Because of this, the relationship between specimen and epistemic object is less standardised in sociology than in other disciplines, which creates problems for the accumulation of knowledge. Sociology also encounters unique problems of access to model systems.Highlights► Sociologists study the world through objects that receive a disproportionate amount of attention. ► Lack of circulation of physical copies of these objects creates problems for equal access for researchers. ► Lack of standardisation creates problems for the accumulation of knowledge. ► Developing a shared language in sociology of what sociological objects are would aid reflection.