Both the individual and the institutional dynamics of research limited academicians' ties with the larger scientific community. At the individual
level, scientific discourse was sometimes a struggle in which the contestants tried to get as much information as possible from each other at least cost, with the lesser figures taking the greater risks. Savants wanted the acclaim that came from the opportune delivery and convincing proof of a well-formed hypothesis; they wanted to publish their discoveries under their own names when the time was ripe. The wish to make a name for oneself was an important limit on cooperation and on the exchange of information during the seventeenth century. Besides the striving for personal gloire, there were other limitations on cooperation among individual savants, which derived from circumstances, personality, and systems of belief.
The formation of the Academy of Sciences altered the balance of scientific discourse, because the Academy erected an institutional barrier between academician and nonacademician and formalized the relations among savants. It also introduced new elements into the quest for recognition by savants: the Company's own name had to be protected and enhanced, and its prestige augmented that of its correspondents and members. The Academy's ministerial protectors sought renown for the institution and its royal patron, and they expected the Company to gain respect through its publications. For these reasons, the Academy limited cooperation and exchange of information between academicians and outsiders.
Establishment of the Academy also affected the structure of the scientific community. Because the Academy enjoyed advantages of funding, prestige, and power, it could establish itself as an arbiter of acceptable theory and correct data. Into a scientific community consisting — according to Rudwick's criteria — of theory-formulating elite and data-collecting amateurs, the crown injected the Academy of Sciences, an elite institution that arrogated to itself the right to judge what scientific knowledge was admissible. Not all academicians were among the scientific elite themselves, but that did not matter. The Academy's reputation was enhanced by the inclusion of highly regarded savants among its members. But its standing was higher than that of its members collectively, partly because royal patronage enabled it to set itself above the rest of the scientific community.
The Academy's status as an elite institution is clarified by its official contacts with outsiders. The Academy controlled the dissemination of news about its activities, emphasizing the subjects on which it would publish treatises and inviting communications from the public. It tried to keep the ideas of its members secret until their hypotheses were ready for publication, and it treated most nonacademicians as amateurs, collecting from them data that members applied to their own projects. When the
Academy reviewed the publications of outsiders, as in the case of Boyle's chemical treatises, it was critical and preferred the work of its own members. It used ties with other royal establishments, such as the Jardin royal or the pépinerie , to support its own research, and in obtaining local services and goods it kept the Parisian practitioners in a subordinate position.
The result was that the Academy's external ties had a mixed effect on its own research and on the larger scientific community. For the Academy's own botanical research, at least, the personal connections of academicians were more effective stimuli to their research than were the associations generated by the institution. Institutional interchanges about plants were plentiful and had a wide geographical reach; they were best at attracting data. Personal interchanges could obtain data, though not necessarily from so many lands, but were also likely to stimulate new ideas. By conducting their research on plants with so little regard to contemporary work, academicians struck out independently but unsystematically.
The larger scientific community was both animated and discouraged by the Academy. The institution became a clearing-house of information but was an obstacle to royal patronage of other individuals or groups. It undertook projects too vast for any one individual but did not publish sufficiently. It attracted many who sought membership but it admitted few candidates. By restricting the flow of information and using contacts to its own advantage, the Academy deprecated the larger community. But by raising the standard of work in some fields, by training personnel in several disciplines, and by airing the difficulties of solving certain scientific problems and by solving others, the Academy improved the practice of science, both theoretical and applied, in the larger scientific community. The Academy's scholarly accomplishments and connection to the crown gave it the special position academicians claimed as its right. Thus, royal patronage of the Academy had manifold effects on both science and the scientific community.