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Boundary work is applied in different settings: in demarcating science from non-science, in demarcating science from policy and heterogeneous scientific work. Boundary work is the simultaneous practice of demarcation and coordination between different social worlds (Star and Griesmer 1989; Hoppe 2005). The boundary work of scientists is described by Gieryn (1983) as the “attribution of selected characteristics to the institution of science (i.e., to its practitioners, methods, stock of knowledge, values and work organization) for purposes of constructing a social boundary that distinguishes some intellectual activities as "non-science."”. Gieryn introduced the concept of boundary work to distinguish science from non-science as described, the concept has since then emerged and used to describe the relation between the science and policy domain. Jasanoff (1990) described the challenge of boundary work for scientists as to bring science ‘close enough’ to politics and policy, but to avoid either science or politics overextending into the others’ territory (Waterton 2005). A third application of boundary work is about translating between different social worlds. Star and Griesmer (1989) define doing science as a heterogeneous activity in need for different viewpoints as well as cooperation. Boundary work is used to connect different social worlds: management, amateurs, administration as well as scientists from differing disciplines. Boundary work is applied in demarcating science from non-science, in demarcating science from policy and heterogeneous scientific work. 

Boundary work as a concept coincides with developing role of science in society. Two important development are the introduction of the concept of post-normal science, to deal with uncertainties related to doing science by Funtowicz and Ravetz (1993) and the introduced mode-2 science to deal with the interdisciplinary character of science (Gibbons 2000). Waterton (2005) explained boundary work as a response to institutional changes in ‘science-society contract’, hereby focusing on the situation in the United Kingdom: “The advent of the customer-funder-policymaker as a prominent element in science beginning in the mid-1970s in the UK, and intensifying thereafter, seems to have forced scientists to renegotiate scientific boundaries and to do some of the delicate boundary work described by Jasanoff (1990)”. Societal developments forced scientist to deliberately deal with boundary work, both on the science policy interface as well as between scientific disciplines (Waterton 2005).

Boundary work is used by scientists for differing purposes. Gieryn (1995) introduced four types of boundary-work: monopolizations, expansion of the cultural authority of science, expulsion of not-real members of the scientific realm and protection of the control of science by outside powers such as policy. Boundary work provides legitimacy and authority for the different social words in the blurry space between these worlds. But boundary work plays as well a role in making these different worlds cooperate (Jasanoff 1990).

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