Learning from Actor Network Theory: Bridging the gap between research in science and research by design

  • Simon Bradbury Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias


This paper explores how an alternative understanding of the development ofscientific knowledge through the work of Bruno Latour can help to bridge the gapbetween knowledge produced through practice-based research and conventionalresearch outputs.The paper reviews the history of the debate of what constitutes practice-basedresearch outputs drawing from the work of Frayling (1993) and Archer (1995). Anunderstanding of practice-based research is developed that goes beyond a simplisticview of a building or artefact as a research output or “mute object” (Till 2012).This is considered in the context of the work of Bruno Latour (1987, 2005) and otherswho have tried to show how the construction of scientific facts is produced as afunction of both the ‘objects’ and ‘social’ context of science.Through reviewing practice-based research submissions from RAE 2008 the paperexplores how we may re-conceive both the normative models of research outputs(peer reviewed academic papers) and the products of architecture practice (buildingsand artefacts) and conceive them both as part of the same network of knowledgeproduction. This is then discussed in the practical context of a practice-based research project into low energy housing.In doing so the paper suggest this new understanding will elevate the importance ofrigorous practice-based research while overcoming the challenges faced inconventional research in the constant desire to show impact from research projects.