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Serendipity: Towards a taxonomy and a theory

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  • Ohid Yaqub

    () (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, UK)

Abstract

Serendipity, the notion of researchers making unexpected and beneficial discoveries, has played an important role in debates about the feasibility and desirability of targeting public R&D investments. The purpose of this paper is to show that serendipity can come in different forms and come about in a variety of ways. The archives of Robert K Merton, who introduced the term to the social sciences, were used as a starting point for gathering literature and examples. We identify four types of serendipity (Walpolian, Mertonian, Browsing, Curiosity) together with four mechanisms of serendipity (Theory-led, Observer-led, Error-borne, and Network-emergent). We also discuss implications of the different types and mechanisms for theory and policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Ohid Yaqub, 2016. "Serendipity: Towards a taxonomy and a theory," SPRU Working Paper Series 2016-17, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
  • Handle: RePEc:sru:ssewps:2016-17
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    13. repec:dau:papers:123456789/13443 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Keywords

    serendipity; uncertainty; research policy; science policy; technology policy; innovation management;

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