Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2010

Public Engagement and Governance of Science in different Techno-political Cultures

Lecturer: Professor Ulrike Felt,
Department of Social Studies of Science,
University of Vienna, Austria

Main disciplines: STS, Sociology, Culture Studies

Dates: 2 - 6 August 2010
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants

The course addresses the normative, conceptual and policy issues in contemporary debates and realisations of public engagement and governance of science and technology. The increasing use of the notion of governance denotes a shift from government, i.e. a traditional mode of ordering society, where power rests in the hands of formal public institutions and the state, to new more distributed constellations of decision-making and power. The emergence of governance is often argumentatively linked to a decline in the ability of central governments to effectively steer society, the failure of traditional decision-making structures and a growing alienation of citizens from central power. This poses challenging questions about the relationship between governance and government and the identity of new actors and their role in these processes of shaping society.

Over the past decade, particularly the relations and interactions between science, science policy and society have served as a “laboratory” in which ways to enact these new forms of governance have been experimented with. In this, the inclusion and participation of the public has been a key issue. While this “participatory turn” is often greeted with enthusiasm and as an a priori positive development, the number of critical reflections is rising. Commentators have pointed to the high load of unreflected normativity in how issues, publics and forms of participation are constructed. Some have even argued that participation might also be seen as an element of a neo-liberal mode of governance, in particular when the meaning of participation is defined top-down, by policy makers and/or social scientists.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

For the first day of the course, students should prepare a brief introduction of their own (planned or actual) individual research project and how this course might relate to it. The introduction should be very brief and no longer than 3 minutes (i.e., it is a verbal introduction, no power point presentations, etc.).

Students also have the option or writing a 6,000 to 10,000 word research paper within eight weeks after the course to receive a course certificate and earn credits. The topic of the paper should be decided in consultation with the instructor. Students may focus on a content-related essay or undertake a related detailed analysis using their own data. A more detailed specification of this essay and the criteria for grading will be provided at the beginning of the course. Students who fulfil this requirement with a passing grade will receive 10 ECTS credits.



Lecture 1: The co-production of science and society: An introduction
Aim of the lecture: Clarify the basic understandings underlying the analysis of changing governance and engagement structures



Lecture 2: From government to governance
Aim of the lecture: clarify the notion of governance and grasp the repertoire of different forms and formats of governing; understand what changes in the relation of science, technology and society have caused to call for new forms of governing; analyse the complex relations between government and governance; investigate in an exemplary way European policy discourses on the governance of science and technology and their underlying narratives about Europe, its future potential and the potential futures.



Lecture 3: Reflecting the participatory turn
Aim of the lecture: Understand public engagement as triggered by changes in the relation of technoscience and society; investigate the forms and formats of public engagement exercises introduced in the European context; assess the possibilities and limits of participatory exercises; reflect on the public perception of engagement.



Lecture 4: Techno-political cultures and their power in framing public engagement
Aim of the lecture: Reflect the context-dependency in realising public participation in science and technology governance; develop the notion of techno-political cultures and how their differences matter; investigate the role of the “object” to be engaged with (e.g. how does the concrete technoscientific constellation to be deliberated upon open-up or close-down possibilities of engagement); more broadly this lecture will address the role of comparative research in this domain.



Lecture 5: Governing and participating in what?
Aim of the lecture: Continuing the debate in lecture 3, this lecture will further address the contextual nature of both governance models and the possibilities of participatory settings; yet it will also address the close relation between innovation models at stake and the related possibilities to engagement.



Lecture 6: Rethinking epistemology in governance and engagement processes
Aim of the lecture: Reflect on the ways in which citizenship is conceptualized in contemporary knowledge societies; analyse the ways in which epistemic considerations feature in theoretical  analyses of citizenship; understand when and where citizens get opportunities for active intervention in the knowledge-making practices of modern states;  identify the kinds of knowledge citizens hold in common and identify how this “common knowledge” is created, distributed and plays out in technoscientific decision-making



Lecture 7: Citizens in the knowledge society/state: The making of
Aim of the lecture: Identify and analyse the performative forces at work in public engagement exercises; discuss how such exercises are machineries of producing/shaping publics; reflect on who can participate in such interventions and who is excluded; analyse how political culture matters in the production of knowledgeable citizens



Lecture 8: Models of innovation and the role of timing engagement
Aim of the lecture: Address the issue of timing in participatory exercises both in a deliberative sense, but also with regard of taking part in forms of knowledge production; analyse our imagination of innovation processes; investigate discourses about the moments in the innovation process when public participation seems necessary, possible and useful; reflect on the multiple impacts the choice of the moment of intervention has on potential outcomes; understand how the moment in the innovation process allows for different kinds of questions to be posed but also a different range of answers to be developed



Lecture 9: Governance and engagement as „futuring“
Aim of the lecture: Investigate the crucial role future expectations and promises have become to providing the dynamism and momentum upon which ventures in science and technology depend; address the ways in which we imagine future as an “object” to be governed and in which ways participation is imagined in the shaping of these futures; understand how innovation governance is closely linked to the breaking and making of futures



Lecture 10: Case studies of new governance and public engagement
Aim of the lecture: get an overview over the repertoire of engagement methods; discuss a small number of cases in an exemplary manner in order to reflect the elements brought up through the whole course.


The lecturer
Ulrike Felt is professor of social studies of science since 1999 and head of the Department of Social Studies of Science at the University of Vienna. After completing her Ph.D. in theoretical physics (1983), she worked for nearly five years at the European Centre for High Energy Physics (CERN) in Geneva studying social, political and scientific aspects in the foundation period of this first big European research institution. During this period she reoriented her research to science and technology studies. Returning to Vienna she took up a position at the newly founded Institute for Philosophy of Science and Social Studies of Science headed by Helga Nowotny. In 1997 she received her habilitation in Science Studies/Sociology of Sciences with a historical study on the emerging science communication culture in Vienna in the first half of 20th century.

Ulrike Felt has wide experience in running nationally and internationally funded research projects in both areas and working with a broad spectrum of social science research methods. Much of her recent work was preoccupied with comparative dimensions in science studies. During the last years she has been visiting professor in a number of institutions, among them at GERSULP/Université Louis Pasteur (Strasbourg), at the Centre Interuniversitaire pour la Recherche en Science et Technologie, Universite du Québec à Montréal, at the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris and most recently at the Collegium Helveticum, ETH Zurich. From July 2002 to June 2007 she was editor of the international peer-reviewed Journal Science, Technology, & Human Values (Journal of the Society for Social Studies of Science). She served as expert in the Advisory Group of the European Commission for the Science and Society priority of the 6th framework programme (2003-2006) and from 2006 to 2007 as member of the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB). From 2005 to 2007 she was leading together with Brian Wynne the EU expert group on Science and Governance.

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