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Owen Nelson
Owen Nelson

Serendipity [BETTER]


There is considerable similarity between luck and serendipity, but there are also settings in which one word might be more apt than the other. Serendipity has a fairly narrow meaning, one that is concerned with finding pleasing things that one had not been looking for, while luck has a somewhat broader range (with meanings such as "a force that brings good fortune or adversity," "success," and "the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual"). One might easily be said to have luck that is bad, which one would not say of serendipity.




Serendipity



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. 041b061a72


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