Shapin, S. (2010). "Pump and circumstance: Robert Boyle's literary technology." Never Pure: Historical studies of science as if it was produced by people with bodies, situated in time, space, culture, and society, and struggling for credibility and authority. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 89-116.
Recently, I have been thinking about social construction of knowledge. Shapin's discourse on Boyle underscores this reality. Before "scientists" came "experimental philosophers" who took on the task of what we take for granted today: creating ethos for "matters of fact." These matters of fact are the measurements and data that we modern scientists collect as evidence.
Whereas we report our findings as concisely as possible (and in some cases stash a brief methodology at the end), Boyle had to write in great detail to create "virtual witnesses." His manuscripts were conducted to create the effect that the reader had been there and seen what happened at each step of the way, including mistakes and failures.
Thus, these matters of fact were not dependent on Boyle's word alone, reported through the text, but by consensus of the public community who could, in essence, observe the proceedings vicariously.
Considering Hoffmann's arguments, it is perhaps to a Boyle-style article that he wishes to return. This would certainly make for a more open scientific community, as Shapiro notes that the modern scientific community is a subculture in which one can participate only after they have mastered the specialized language and form of communication practiced by scientists.
Despite the evolution of the modern article however, there are some Boyle-style elements that have been retained. Boyle was extremely careful to separate matters of fact and conjecture/theory both through language and layout. This continues today with the separation of the results (matters of fact) and the discussion (theory/explanation); however, I believe that the onus now lies more on the reader to separate the ideas, as the language we use has become more confident and direct.
The peer-review system is reminiscent of the credible witnesses that actually observed the conduction of the experiment. We have moved away from the original intent of the budding "scientific community" however, in that our version of "public space" has been reduced to those that practice science and can afford access to scientific journals. Much of the science that the broader public receives is passed through the oracles of media.
I will leave off with what I think is an interesting juxtaposition of two quotes from Shapin. The first is on Boyle's principles of offering detailed circumstantial accounts, and the second is quoted from Ludwik Fleck.
"It was also necessary, in Boyle's view, to offer readers circumstantial accounts of failed experiments. This performed two functions: first is allayed anxieties in those neophyte experimentalists whose expectations of success were not immediately fulfilled...." (p.100)
"Ludwick Fleck noted.... 'The optimum system of a science, the ultimate organization of its principles, is completely incomprehensible to the novice'" (p.115)
Has science gone wrong in the method of reporting its practices? In Boyle's time, experimental philosophers were largely self-funded and publication, while affecting reputation, perhaps did not affect employment. Has the switch to external funding and page charges in journals led to the conversion to brief reports of success alone?