Before I start, I should note that although I use a lot of sociology of science, my expertise is studies of science when it gets outside the scientific community. I've read Laboratory Life, but it's my copy of Science in Public that is falling to pieces. My everyday work considers science as it exists in popular books, education, museums, the web, the telly, etc. If in my ignorance I've missed something brilliant, please do share it in the comments.
The first response is simply to say "it really depends on the scientist". This isn't just a cop-out. If my experience of the field has taught me anything, it's that generalising about the big whole thing we call, for convenience, "science" is just plain silly. Generalising about "scientists" doubly-so. It'll depend on individual taste, of course, but the larger point is that some of the best sociology of science focuses on very specific case studies. Still, there are a few general publications in this area:
- Collins and Pinch's Golem books (on science, technology and medicine). These are written specifically as accessible introductions to the social studies of science and feature a set of neatly written case studies. Personally, I find the attitude that you "need to know" their content to be "scientifically literate" somewhat patronising, but they are a good read if you are interested to know more.
- The CBC series "How to Think About Science" (podcasts). This was my initial response to the question, and I'd stick by it. Though, as I said at the time, they are a mixed bunch and worth listening to sceptically. I should also note it is focused on ways to think about science, though there are some discussions of empirical reserach into science too.
- An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, Sergio Sismondo. In some respects this is an undergrad introduction book (which will either appeal, or grate. It's very clear though).
- Making Sense of Science, Steven Yearley. Again, a bit of a textbook, but pitched a bit higher than Sismondo, with an emphasis on policy. It isn't the most gripping read, but clear with some super case studies. For a slightly more cultural studies approach, see also Science, Culture and Society by Mark Erickson.
- Science in Society, Massimiano Bucchi. Probably the shortest of these recent intro guides, but it covers all the key points. Some people find Bucchi's style hard to follow, personally I think it's very fluid in this text.
- If it's philosophy you really want, Alan Chalmer's What is This Thing Called Science? is justifiably the one everyone suggests. If you'd like a more empirically-based answer to the "what is science" question, try Thomas Gieryn's Cultural Boundaries of Science with its well throughout theoretical discussion and set of historical case studies.
- Firstly, I can recommend a couple of recent Nature articles about sociologists studying scientists at the LHC and biology.
- My boss will kill me if I don't mention his biology book, Thinking About Biology (more philosophy than sociology, but recommended, and not just because it's by my boss).
- If you are interested in environmental science, I think Mike Hulme's recent Why We Disagree About Climate Change provides a very clear run through the social studies of the subject. I also really like Alan Irwin's Sociology and the Environment, but it's a bit heavier going.
- I've generally avoided history of science here, because that's a whole other long list (plus, much more accessible literature) but it's worth mentioning the Revolutions in Science series.
- If you are interested in science's relationships with the public (especially policy), it's worth having a look at the think-tank Demos. Their reports aren't academic papers, but they do apply academic ideas and research and they are much easier to read than most sociology articles. They are also free to download. The classic is probably See Through Science, but The Public Value of Science and The Received Wisdom are heartily recommended.
- If you have access to a decent academic library, have a browse of journals like the Social Studies of Science, Isis, Science as Culture, or Science, Technology and Human Values to see if any of the articles look interesting. Some will be hard to understand without an advanced degree in the subject, some will probably be, frankly, a bit crap, but they are probably worth a glance.
- ADDED 2/7/10: Steven Epstein's (1996) Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge. Simply, a really good case study. You'll learn a lot about the history of AIDS, but also about the politics of knowledge in contemporary life. (I was reminded of it by this page of "science and democracy" book recommendations. All the others are worth a read).