Transforming Big Science in Belgium: Management Consultants and the Reorganization of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN), 1980–1990

Hein Brookhuis

    Research outputpeer-review

    Abstract

    This article analyses the relationship between the Belgian government and the national Nuclear Research Centre (SCK CEN) in the renegotiation of the mission and organization of Big Science in Belgium. While the founding decades of nuclear laboratories are often characterized by ever-increasing budgets and the establishment of large infrastructure, I show that downsizing or transforming Big Science demanded a new form of politics on the organization of science. Drawing on archival material, this article will demonstrate how the mission and management of SCK CEN were critically followed by a variety of stakeholders. Furthermore, the Belgian government explicitly aimed to allow corporate principles to guide the reorganization of the research centre by hiring consultants from Arthur Andersen. This episode in the history of nuclear research invites historians of science to reflect upon both the politics of Big Science in an era in which its original principles were fundamentally questioned and the historical development of new norms and expectations attached to this phenomenon.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)483-508
    Number of pages26
    Journal Centaurus: Journal of the European Society for the History of Science
    Volume64
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 2022

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