Forthcoming

  • Profiles of Malaria Research in Portugal (2018-07-23)
    Ana Ferreira Centro Interdisciplinar de Ciências Sociais CICS.NOVA - Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas - Universidade Nova de Lisboa (CICS.NOVA.FCSH/UNL) Ana Lúcia Teixeira Centro Interdisciplinar de Ciências Sociais CICS.NOVA - Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas - Universidade Nova de Lisboa (CICS.NOVA.FCSH/UNL)

    Synergies between globalization and knowledge economy were suggested to direct biomedical research towards economically-interested activities. In this context, research in malaria, a disease endemic to poverty, may be at a paradoxical stance. This study addresses this issue assessing whether malaria research is driven by the accumulation of economic and/or other forms of capital. Drawing upon academic and epistemic capitalism, malaria research is characterized through the analysis of all Web of science-indexed publications involving Portuguese organizations (1900-2014; n=467). First, data was systematized by content and bibliometric analyses. Subsequently, multiple correspondence analysis revealed a bi-dimensional landscape (who’s publishing; what’s published) and cluster analysis identified three profiles (beginners; local appropriations; global science). This study reveals the construction of Portugal’s scientific system and unveils the assimilation of dominant modes of organizing, doing and thinking despite malaria’s research low profit potential. Extending this approach to other biomedical fields can unravel the dimensions underlying science’s (re)construction.


  • The Factish in the Field (2018-07-15)
    Andrew Flachs Purdue University

    Research in GM crops is of pressing importance to biotechnologists, development economists, government officials, and concerned citizens.  Each of these stakeholders carries preconceived notions of success and failure that not only influence how data regarding GM crops is shared but also reify the objective reality of GM seeds as a technology that might exist outside the idiosyncracies of a farmer’s field.  In this essay, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among GM cotton planting farmers in Telangana, India to deconstruct the process by which scientific facts are created, leveraged, and then divorced from their subjective contexts in agricultural research.  In paying closer attention to the ways that the science of agricultural development has limited possibilities of farmer experience and transformed GM seeds into autonomous beings, this paper attempts to take up Latour’s call for a compositionist investigation of a common world slowly assembled by its constituent actors.


  • Method Matters in the Social Study of Technology: Investigating the Biographies of Artifacts and Practices (2018-07-12)
    Sampsa Hyysalo Aalto University Neil Pollock Robin Alun Williams

    Science and Technology Studies understandings of technological change are at odds with its own dominant research designs and methodological guidelines. A key insight from the social shaping of technology research, for instance, has been that new technologies are formed in multiple interlinked settings, by many different groups of actors over long periods of time. Nonetheless, common research designs have not kept pace with these conceptual advances, continuing instead to resort to either intensive localised ethnographic engagements or extensive historical studies, both of which can generate only partial and limited accounts of the processes they suggest are at playThere has, however, been increasing interest in extending current methodological and analytical approaches through longitudinal and multi-site research templates, which include the emerging ‘biographies of artifacts and practices’ (BOAP) framework. Since its onset in the 1990s, there are now numerous exemplifications of the BOAP approach. This paper outlines its basic rationale and principles, and its significant variations, and discusses its contribution to STS understandings of innovation, especially user-led innovation. We finish by arguing that if STS is to continue to provide insight around innovation this will require a reconceptualisation of research design, to move from simple ‘snap shot’ studies to the linking together of ‘a string of investigations’.


  • Futures Work as a Mode of Academic Engagement (2018-07-23)
    Mikko Jalas Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture Mikko Rask Tatu Marttila Tero Ahonen

    Strategic research indicates a problem-oriented, collaborative process of knowledge creation. Analysing a Finnish research project Smart Energy Transition and a related Delphi survey, we conceptualize strategic research as ‘futures work’ and as translations of technologies, time frames and narratives into a future vision. We ask 1) What is the role of the notion of disruption in strategic research and in the acts of translation? 2) What are the available means of articulating “disruption” in a Delphi survey? and 3) How do academics carrying out strategic research align themselves as part of actor networks? We find that the notion of disruption mediates the boundaries between science, business and policy. Moreover, plural time frames of short-term changes in actor networks and long-term speculative visions enable boundary work. Alignment between actors hinges on methodology, specific academic backgrounds and expertize, public energy discourses, national and industry interests, as well as neoliberal policy approaches that see futures as business opportunities.


  • Reckoning Resources (2019-05-03)
    Sophie Haines University of Oxford

    Participants in Belize’s water sector encounter challenges in identifying and living within shifting environments, and in conducting the work of expectation given ambiguities in rainfall patterns, historical records, institutional resources and political interests. Policymakers, scientists and practitioners generate and organise different kinds of foreknowledge as they anticipate future quantities, qualities and distribution of water, amid questions about the patterning of expertise and the nature of water as a resource. I present three ethnographic vignettes to address: the navigation of nonknowledge in water policy implementation; the frictions that arise in modelling workshops where trainees generate data-driven maps of future environments; and the situated sensing of environmental change. Building on a concept of ‘reckoning’ that highlights cross-cutting technical, relational, political and affective dimensions of meaning-making, I situate these foreknowledge practices in the socio-material contexts of environmental perception, socio-economic development, and the political lives of anticipation.


  • On the Plurality of Environmental Regimes of Anticipation (2019-05-03)
    Antoine Dolez PACTE / IRSTEA Granjou Céline Université Grenoble Alpes/ IRSTEA 2 rue de la Papeterie BP 76 – 38 400 St Martin d’Hères cedex / UMR PACTE (Grenoble) ; LISIS (Paris Est Marne la Vallée) Louvel Séverine PACTE UMR 5194 Univ. Grenoble Alpes, PACTE, F-38000 Grenoble, France / Sciences Po Grenoble, PACTE, F-38000 Grenoble, France

    In recent years, the social sciences have increasingly investigated ways in which futures are anticipated, fostered, and pre-empted. However, less attention has been given to how various predictive approaches inform different ways of acting in the present. Our article presents the results of an investigation into the current practices and agendas of forest scientists and managers in France. We first suggest how an anticipation of environmental futures is coming to the fore as an emerging field of expertise and practices in forest sciences, including predicting but also monitoring, preparing and adapting to projected futures. We then account for the co-existence of three “micro-regimes” of anticipation combining a certain approach to the forest, a certain vision of the future, and a certain type of scientific predictive approach, including different anticipatory objectives, different modelling practices, and different interactions between research and management: i/ Adapting forestry to future climates; ii/ Predicting Future Tree Biology; iii/ Monitoring forests as indicators of climate change.


  • Organising Policy-Relevant Knowledge for Climate Action (2019-03-25)
    Béatrice Cointe LAMES, Aix-Marseille Univ, UMR 7305 CNRS http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3647-8327 Christophe Cassen CIRED, UMR 8568 CNRS – Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, EHESS, AgroParisTech, CIRAD Alain Nadaï CIRED-CNRS http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0383-2729

    Greenhouse gas emission scenarios are key in analyses of human interference with the climate system. They are mainly produced by one category of computer models: Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs). We analyse how IAM research organised into a community around the production of socio-economic scenarios during the preparation of the IPCC AR5 (2005-2014). We seek to describe the co-emergence of a research community, its instruments, and its domain of applicability. We highlight the role of the IPCC process in the making of the IAM community, showing how IAMs worked their way to an influent position. We then survey three elements of the repertoire that served to organise collective work on scenarios in interaction with the IPCC and the European Union, and which now frames the community and its epistemic practices. This repertoire needs to articulate epistemic practices with the pursuit of policy relevance, which shows how epistemic communities and patterns of co-production materialise in practical arrangements.


  • Inventing Prediction for Regulation (2019-04-05)
    Henri Boullier David Demortain Maurice Zeeman

    In policies targeting environmental and health hazards, an effort is frequently made to anticipate and avert more or less probable adverse events. In this context, computerized models are frequently portrayed as superior knowledge tools, for their capacity to extrapolate from existing data and predict hazards. This paper looks at the historical development and use of such models in regulation, with the specific example of structure-activity relationships (SARs) in the regulation of new industrial chemicals at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It asks how evidential culture(s) in a regulatory organization change, in particular how new methods and forms of knowledge find their place alongside others to forge regulatory decisions. The development and application of, first, a qualitative approach to structure-activity relationships, and then of quantitative models, show that the EPA had the necessary autonomy to imagine and adjust a method emerging in the research environment to respond to regulatory needs. This can be understood from a coproductionist perspective, if adjusted to take into account the bureaucratic knowledge that mediates the imagining and application of prediction in regulatory practice.


  • Reassembling Energy Policy (2019-01-11)
    Stefan Cihan Aykut Universität Hamburg

    Ongoing debates about the need to deeply transform energy systems worldwide have spurred renewed scholarly interest in the role of future-visions and foreknowledge in energy policy. Forecasts and scenarios are in fact ubiquitous in energy debates: commonly calculated using energy models, they are employed by governments, administrations and civil society actors to identify problems, choose between potential solutions, and justify specific forms of political intervention. This article contributes to these debates through a historic study of foreknowledge-making – modelling, forecasting, and scenario-building – and its relationship to the structuring of ‘energy policy’ as an autonomous policy domain in France and Germany. It brings together two strands of literature: work in the anthropology of politics on ‘policy assemblages’, and STS research on the ‘performative’ effects of foreknowledge. The main argument is that new ways of assembling energy systems in energy modelling, and of bringing together policy networks in scenario-building and forecasting exercises, can contribute to policy change. To analyse the conditions under which such change occurs, the article focuses on two periods: the making of national energy policies as ‘energy supply policies’ in the post-war decades; and challenges to dominant approaches to energy policy and energy modelling in the 1970s and 1980s. It concludes by arguing that further research should not only focus on the effects of foreknowledge on expectations and beliefs (‘discursive performativity’), but also take into account how new models ‘equip’ political, administrative and market actors (‘material performativity’), and how forecasting practices recompose and shape wider policy worlds (‘social performativity’).


  • Unfolding Algorithms (2019-05-08)
    Bilel Benbouzid LISIS-UPEM

    Predictive policing is a research field whose principal aim is to develop machines for predicting crimes, drawing on machine learning algorithms and the growing availability of a diversity of data. This paper deals with the case of the algorithm of PredPol, the best-known startup in predictive policing. The mathematicians behind it took their inspiration from an algorithm created by a French seismologist, a professor in earth sciences at the University of Savoie. As the source code of the PredPol platform is kept inaccessible as a trade secret, the author contacted the seismologist directly in order to try to understand the predictions of the company’s algorithm. Using the same method of calculation on the same data, the seismologist arrived at a different, more cautious interpretation of the algorithm's capacity to predict crime. How were these predictive analyses formed on the two sides of the Atlantic? How do predictive algorithms come to exist differently in these different contexts? How and why is it that predictive machines can foretell a crime that is yet to be committed in a California laboratory, and yet no longer work in another laboratory in Chambéry?  In answering these questions, I found that machine learning researchers have a moral vision of their own activity that can be understood by analyzing the values and material consequences involved in the evaluation tests that are used to create the predictions.


  • Unpacking the Concept of Bioeconomy: Problems of Definition, Measurement, and Value (2019-02-27)
    James Mittra, Dr University of Edinburgh http://orcid.org/0000-0002-0185-6770 Giorgos Zoukas, Mr University of Edinburgh

    In this paper, we critically explore the evolution and impact of the concept ‘bioeconomy’ as a descriptor and driver of diff erent scientific, technological, and policy initiatives in the life sciences. We unpack the different ways bioeconomy has been framed – as an emergent, present, or sometimes promissory economic regime underpinned by particular socio-technical practices - by tracing how its use has evolved in different disciplinary field and sectors. We also critically analyse three key reports that attempt to measure the size and contribution of the bioeconomy at regional levels. Our overarching questions are: What is the bioeconomy, how has it been used in different fields, and how might it be best understood and valued both economically and politically? In answering these questions, we build on and contribute to critical scholarship in science and technology studies, particularly theoretical work on biovalue, commodification, and assetisation; using this in conjunction with our empirical concept search and document analysis to contribute new knowledge and understanding of the bioeconomy’s past, present, and future.


  • The Power of Place (2019-03-12)
    Catharina Landstrom University of Oxford Stewart Kemp

    Investigating the role of geographical location in public engagement with science we examine the West Cumbria Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) Partnership’s undertaking of one of the most extensive local public engagements with environmental risk science in the UK. The case study highlights the transformative impacts of this three-year long local engagement on both science and the public. Differently from other invited public engagements, organised as experiments controlled by scientists in spaces set aside from the everyday, the Partnership’s lay members led a process unfolding in the place that was potentially at risk. The Partnership had the authority to demand that scientists addressed issues of local interest. We frame the analysis with the notions ‘re-situating technoscience' and ‘re-assembling the public' to illuminate how scientific knowledge claims were modified and a new local public emerged, at the intersection of public engagement with science and public participation in environmental risk governance.


  • The Shaping of Urban Public Transport (2019-03-13)
    Lina Ingeborgrud Norwegian University of Science and Technology

    This paper investigates the shaping of urban public transport by comparing ‘alternative leading objects’ to the car in the Norwegian cities Trondheim and Bergen. These have chosen different transport technologies, bus and light rail respectively. I draw on the concept of technological frames and illustrate how interpretations and expectations of sustainable urban mobility guide transport planning. The paper contributes to discussions in STS by exploring technological frames as ongoing practices instead of as outcomes, and as performed by what I identify as two framing coalitions. Both coalitions emphasised that Trondheim and Bergen represented different city identities and topographies. The paper demonstrates the importance of making such identities and representations of public transport systems in particular urban contexts in order to replace a car-dominated transport system. The paper draws on an observational study in two transport offices, interviews with transport planners and politicians and document studies.


  • Comparing Forms and Degrees of Critique (2019-03-25)
    Jeremy Keith Ward Aix-Marseille Université

    This paper presents an analytical tool designed to evaluate the degree and type of divergence between a dominant orthodox discourse and that of heterodox actors who criticize it. This method of discourse analysis consists in a breaking down and classification of its different parts. It is grounded in Boltanski’s conception of critique and in analytical sociologists’ breaking down of social reality. By summarizing these differences in simple tables, the method proposed greatly facilitates comparisons of the discourses of a great variety of actors. To show the heuristic power of this tool, I apply it to the controversy that emerged in France in 2009-2010 over the safety of the pandemic flu vaccine. I present the social and medical ontologies on which these various critiques are grounded and their varying degrees of radicalism.


     


  • Becoming an FSC Auditor (2018-12-17)
    William Clark Cook Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University Esther Turnhout Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group, Wageningen University Severine van Bommel

    This paper aims to open up the black box of auditing for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management standard. Specifically, we delve into the early steps of becoming an FSC auditor by examining two auditor training sessions in northern Europe. Using a mix of participant observation and unstructured interviews, the paper subjects the trainings to analysis focusing on the ways in which trainees are taught to become FSC experts. Alongside being an exploratory piece on the nature of FSC auditor training, we show how auditing expertise is a matter of performing objectivity and how interpretation is a key aspect of these performances. Learning how to do interpretation, and what values should guide this interpretation, is part of the training but also poses a challenge to the teachers because these aspects cannot be seen to impinge on the objectivity of auditing. We suggest that the mitigation of these tensions during the performance of objectivity is the hallmark of auditing expertise. We conclude our analysis by discussing expertise as a matter of reflecting on and aligning objectivity, values, and interpretation.


  • Online Expert Mediators (2019-05-03)
    Claudia Egher Maastricht University

    Using Collins and Evans’ concept of interactional expertise, this article examines the online activities of three bloggers diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It argues that by combining medical knowledge with their situated experiences, and by utilizing the affordances of blogs, these bloggers have become a new type of stakeholder, the online expert mediator. Collins and Evans’ concept is extended by taking into consideration the role of the medium through which interactional expertise is displayed and by showing that its bi-directional character is more substantial than they had envisaged. The rise of this new stakeholder category denotes a possible turn from community activism to exceptional entrepreneurial selves. Despite views that the internet would have broad democratizing effects, the findings show that the high standing of online expert mediators is not the result of a subversive use of this medium, but of a dynamic alliance with ‘traditional’ experts and of a strong media presence.


  • Sensory Science in Tension: How Environmental Odour Sensing Involves Skills, Affects and Ethics (2018-10-17)
    François-Joseph Daniel ENGEES

    For the last 15 years, sensory science has frequently been recommended to industrial actors to monitor odours, assess the quality of the environment and improve their factories’ functioning. Resident “sniffing teams” have been put in place in different contexts to assess odorous pollution. These teams are groups of local residents living in the neighbourhoods of industrial facilities, who have been trained to report pollution emissions. This article describes these teams as sensory devices and argues that their functioning relies on the consent of the residents to allow themselves to “be affected differently” by smells – from annoyance to interest and curiosity about odour recognition and reporting activity. This consent, which is based on an ‘ethic’ of sensing, centered on the sniffers’ own feelings, is delicate, tense and reversible, given the emotionally-loaded contexts of odorous pollution.


  • From Barracks to Garden Cities (2018-11-29)
    Sophy Bergenheim University of Helsinki

    This article examines how Väestöliitto, the Finnish Population and Family Welfare League, developed into a housing policy expert during the 1940s and 1950s. Through frame analysis, I outline how Väestöliitto constructed urbanisation and ‘barrack cities’, i.e. an urban, tenement-based environment, as a social problem and how, respectively, it framed ‘garden cities’ as a solution. In the 1940s, Väestöliitto promoted a national body for centralised housing policy and national planning. When the ARAVA laws (1949) turned out to be a mere financing system, Väestöliitto harnessed its expertise into more concrete action. In 1951, together with five other NGOs, Väestöliitto founded the Housing Foundation and embarked on a project for constructing a model city. This garden city became the residential suburb Tapiola. This marked a paradigm shift in Finnish town planning and housing policy, which had until then lacked a holistic and systematic approach. Along the 1940s–1950s, Väestöliitto thus constructed and developed its expertise from an influential interest organisation to a concrete housing policy actor.


  • Collaborative Confusion among DIY Makers (2018-12-13)
    Eeva Berglund Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture Cindy Kohtala Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture

    Eco-oriented makers and grassroots subcultures experimenting with digital fabrication technologies, and other activists designing sustainable futures, are increasingly the subject of research. As they address problems of environmental sustainability beyond institutional contexts, their work may appear vague, even confused, yet their activities are underpinned by intense and principled commitment. Working through their confusion, many maker communities build new understandings about what ‘sustainability’ could mean. We argue that herein lie important resources for new knowledge, and further that ethnography is the ideal way to track these processes of learning and knowledge production. The ethnographer participates in local confusion, over values and the definitions of sustainability, but also about what constitutes useful knowledge. Supported by STS (and other) literature on environmental expertise, we argue that maker communities' own acknowledgement of this vagueness actually makes possible a position from which epistemological authority can be reasserted.


  • Realizing the Basic Income (2018-10-17)
    Bonno Pel Universite Libre de Bruxelles Julia Backhaus Maastricht University

    Current social innovation initiatives towards societal transformations bring forward new ways of doing and organizing, but new ways of knowing as well. Their efforts towards realizing those are important sites for the investigation of contemporary tensions of expertise. The promotion of new, transformative ways of knowing typically involves a large bandwidth of claims to expertise. The attendant contestation is unfolded through the exemplar case of the Basic Income, in which the historically evolved forms of academic political advocacy are increasingly accompanied by a new wave of activism. Crowd-funding initiatives, internet activists, citizen labs, petitions and referenda seek to realize the BI through different claims to expertise than previous attempts. Observing both the tensions between diverse claims to expertise and the overall co-production process through which the Basic Income is realized, this contribution concludes with reflections on the politics of expertise involved in transformative social innovation.


  • Affects and Effects in Two Interdisciplinary Projects on Obesity and Cholesterol Lowering Medicine at the University of Copenhagen (2018-10-17)
    Line Hillersdal University of Copenhagen Astrid Pernille Jespersen Bjarke Oxlund Birgitte Bruun

    Research across disciplines is often described as beset with problems of epistemological hierarchies and incommensurable categories. We recognize these problems working in two large interdisciplinary research projects on obesity and cholesterol lowering medicine in Denmark. We explore the affective tensions that arise in concrete situations when we meet other researchers around a shared research object. We propose that sensitivity towards such differences, and exploration of the affects they foster, can generate new epistemological and political openings. Analysing four interdisciplinary situations we suggest that embodied experiences of amusement, awkwardness, boredom and doubts are signposts of both differences and connections between people and concerns. Inspired by Haraway’s notion of “response-ability” (1997) and Verran’s concept of “generative critique” (2001) we propose that attention to affective tensions in interdisciplinary research collaboration can be generative of effects not only on modes of collaboration, but also on the ways we engage the world as researchers.


  • Love and Fear? (2019-03-11)
    Lisa Lindén Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg

    Social media are increasingly envisioned by public health authorities as a new promising arena for public engagement. Against this backdrop, this article attends to how citizens confirm, debate and resist governmental framings of health information online. By drawing upon STS and affect theory, it centers on the digital mediation of feelings on a Facebook engagement site for HPV vaccination. While the public authorities framed HPV vaccination as a matter of love and fear, a wide register of positive and negative feelings were mediated on the site. The article proposes the notion of ‘digitalised literary devices’ to analyse how mundane literary habits, such as the use of punctuation, online have been transformed to digital devices that, for instance, mediate public feelings. By conceptualizing public engagement as ‘civic intensities’, it shows how digital devices, such as digitalised literary devices, mediate and intensify public feelings of engagement.


  • Science Blogs as Critique — Building Public Identities in the Field of Translational Research (2019-04-09)
    Barbara Hendriks Humboldt-University Berlin, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies Martin Reinhart Humboldt-University Berlin, German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies

    Clinician scientists are pivotal figures in translational research. Although the discourse on translational research is favorable to clinician scientists, their role within it and their view of themselves has received little attention. In this exploratory study, we analyze the view of clinician scientists on translational research by drawing on surveillance studies and the pragmatic sociology of critique and examining the potential for critique of science blogs. From analyzing science blogs and the blogging selves they represent, we find a fundamental dilemma of being torn between the two worlds of clinic and research. Although translational research seeks to support clinician scientists, it intensifies this conflict even further. The arguments of clinician scientist-bloggers are emotionally charged with feelings of contradiction, unpredictability, and skepticism. These feelings undergird a critical agenda that shows indignation as the result of being a pivotal figure in the discourse on translational research.