Trust me, I’m a scientist.
Merton’s description of this community value is a bit more subtle. He notes that disinterestedness is different from altruism, and that scientists needn’t be saints.
The best way to understand disinterestedness might be to think of how a scientist working within her tribe is different from an expert out in the world dealing with laypeople. The expert, knowing more than the layperson, could exploit the layperson’s ignorance or his tendency to trust the judgment of the expert. The expert, in other words, could put one over on the layperson for her own benefit. This is how snake oil gets sold.
The scientist working within the tribe of science can expect no such advantage. Thus, trying to put one over on other scientists is a strategy that shouldn’t get you far.
There’s a bit on hucksterism, and there’s actually a double-whammy here. Not only do you have people willing to misrepresent the science to prey on people unable to distinguish the quantum snake oil from shinola, but in the advertising game Janet mentions they will use anecdotal evidence — they won’t say the gizmo cures your ailment, they will have someone tell you how they used the gizmo and their ailment cleared up. They invite you to draw a conclusion that they won’t state, knowing that most people aren’t scientifically literate to know that it’s intellectual entrapment (inviting a correlation/causation and/or post hoc ergo propter hoc error).
Journalists and politicians are complicit in this game as well, in different ways. When journalists, in their quest for balance, interview scientists on the opposite side of a claim, they give the appearance of a divide that often isn’t there. And there always seems to be some person with credentials — an expert — who will take a contrary position. This leaves us open to people using science in reverse: using ideology to decide what the right answer is for their story or for government policy, and the going out and finding an expert who will support that position.