TRACK General STS Topics


S33:Technical Standardisation and STS

Henk de VRIES (Erasmus U. Rotterdam), The Netherlands; Kai JAKOBS (RWTH Aachen University), Germany; Niclas MEYER (Fraunhofer ISI), Germany; Ivana MIJATOVIC (University of Belgrade), Serbia; Anne MIONE (University Montpellier), France; Cesare RIILLO (STATEC), Luxenbourg

Scholars and policy makers are increasingly interested in standards development and its role in science and technology. Indeed, technical standards may accelerate science (and vice versa), facilitate technology development and in a broader sense, shape functioning of the society. For example, common measurement methods are key for scientific experiments.

International communication standards are the basis of the complex communications systems we have today. Safety and environmental standards assure that minimum requirements for the health and safety of users and society are observed. Standards frequently result from science and technical development and form the basis for future waves of innovation. The interplay of standards and standardisation with science and technology is important but remains largely unexplored. Accordingly, the session ‘Technical Standardisation and STS’ solicits contributions aiming to explain and explore the role of standards and standardisation for Science, Technology and Society and how STS could contribute to standards setting.

Topics include (but are not limited to):

• The nature of the relationship between standardisation and STS.

• Contributions of science to standards development.

• Standardisation of Smart Applications (Smart Grid, Industry 4.0, Smart Cities, etc.).

• (When) do standards and standardisation hamper development in science and technology?

• Stakeholder representation in standardisation.

• Legitimacy and influence of different players on standards development.

• Standards and technology assessment.

• Role of industry and their associations (especially SMEs) in standardisation.

• Emergence of social norms in society and their impact on science and technology.

• Ethical issues in standardisation.

KEYWORDS: standards, standardisation, shapig technology and society


S34: Ad hominem arguments, personal attacks and group-focused enmities – infringements against scientists and their work.

Stefanie MAYER (FH Campus Wien), Andreas SCHADAUER (University of Vienna), Austria

To put one’s own scientific work up for critical discussion is an essential part of scientific knowledge production. Academic publications aim for attention by peers in the discipline, but also beyond academia by an interested public or by policy and decision makers. They generate discussions and debates. In some instances however, these debates and discussions derail into hostility and incorporate insulting and destructive statements, ad hominem arguments and group-focused enmities (sexism, racism, etc.).

A wide variety of reports on this kind of destructive experiences can be found in academic literature and (more regularly) in small-talk on the fringes of academic events. There have been reports of sexist practices in peer review processes, both on the structural and the individual level. Historical but also recent feuds on a personal level have been documented within the field of genetics. Other studies offer examples of public attacks on the credibility of individual scientists in order to discredit unwanted (critical) research on politically disputed topics. There have been reports on measures taken against individual scientists when their research clashed with corporate interests. And certain research topics like gender relations, sexuality or racism are regularly accompanied by hateful comments when publicly debated e.g. in newspapers or on blogs and social media. Often, not only individual researchers are attacked but whole research traditions and research fields are deemed worthless. Further issues include politically or religiously motivated negations of scientific debates (e.g. with regard to climate research or evolution).

The possible negative effects of these attacks on career prospects and opportunities of individual scientists, on research fields and on scientific debates are important subjects to be addressed. Their magnitude and degree, the role of the scientific community, the question of solidarity (by whom, at what risk, how, etc.) and the necessary support by employers, universities and other research and science related institutions (structurally, organisationally,and individually) are still open for discussion.

Therefore, this session aims to address the many different ways scientists are exposed to infringements within but also beyond their scientific communities due to their work, how these effect science, the academic communities and individual scientists, and how these attacks can be handled and countered. The session aims to offer insights into current research activities and research interests on this topic, as well as examples of existing strategies, problems and gaps.

Contributions to these and related topics are invited in the form of research papers, reflections on own experiences and observations, position or strategy papers, recommendations, but also other forms and materials are welcome. Contributions from and about all research fields are invited.

To advance a constructive discussion at the session each contributor will be assigned a presentation by another participant to comment on. All contributors are therefore asked to provide some material on their presentation a week beforehand.

KEYWORDS: disputes in science, disputes with science, ethics, public debates



S35: The fabulous world of STS research

Anita THALER (IFZ Graz), Birgit HOFSTÄTTER (Internationale Akadmie Traunkirchen), Thomas MENZEL-BERGER (IZA), Austria

STS research happens not only in classical academic contexts, within the logic of tenure track careers or third party financed projects at universities and research institutions. Usually, STS research does not require labs or expensive equipment, and it can be done from home or mobile offices. Desk research and forming reflexive arguments are some of the central parts of our discipline. What can and should be discussed within a framework of neoliberal university regimes, as a critique of precarious academic positions and lack of social science research funding, can and should be also discussed considering the context of different living and working practices.

In our understanding, STS research exists outside classic academic arrangements as well.
Its theories and methods can be applied in the work of NGOs, cultural movements, or art projects. We would be interested in discussing cases and experiences outside the classic academic context, examples that have been enriched by working with STS and its various methods and approaches.

We propose a workshop session with short, up to 5 min. inputs serving as the starting point for discussions in an interactive setting.

KEYWORDS: workshop, research policy, STS research


S36: Alterscience, at the margins of science

Stéphane FRANÇOIS, (UPAG Valenciennes), France

The denying of contemporary science, particularly its structuring theories (in physics or biology), is at work in individuals or in the most diverse currents of thought. It can be found with engineers (sometimes researchers), producers of an alternative physics free from the rules of scientific validation; or within radical ideologies, such as those of religious fundamentalists, anti-science leftist movements or techno-fascist and climatosceptic movements. It is also in less radical constructions where contemporary science, seen as emanation of the Western world, should be transformed. The workshop proposes to collect contributions on the subject: what common characteristics include these constructions? can one sketch, by studying them, the description of “another science"?

KEYWORDS: alterscience, false science, physics, creationism, radicalism



S37: Public engagement with new and emerging technologies

Franz SEIFERT (independent researcher, Vienna), Austria; Camilo FAUTZ (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Intstitute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Germany

Proposal for an open panel: Public Engagement with New and Emerging Technologies The massive promotion of certain emerging technologies and research fields is increasingly accompanied by measures that do not only observe and analyse a potentially unruly public, but also seek to mobilize and involve the public in the policy discourse. Especially the controversial public debates around Biotechnologies in several European countries in the 1990s led to a „participatory hype“ in the field of new and emerging technologies, particularly with Nanotechnologies but also with related fields in the Life Sciences. Deliberation and participation in science and technology policy, or simply “public engagement” (PE), is supposed to shed light on social and ethical aspects of future developments, to anticipate and  defuse potential social controversies about these technologies, and render communication between decision-makers and the public more egalitarian and democratic.

Participatory PE formats which have been developed to function as democratic and epistemic add-ons to established democratic procedures in specific national contexts have diffused into new national and transnational political-institutional contexts with new political and epistemic requirements and demarcations. This trend that is visible across the OECD and has brought about a wealth of social science theorizing and, often, the practical involvement of the social sciences in PE events, raises the issues addressed by this panel.

What can we learn from a plethora of different PE initiatives and events across Europe over  the past 30 years in Bio-, Nano-, and Life Sciences beyond individual evaluations of single PE events? First, from a structural perspective, the following questions arise: which mechanisms explain why and how the trend toward PE manifests itself in different national political cultures over the past three decades? Is PE creating new epistemic and political demarcation lines between the public and the science and policy subsystems? Second, the role of the social sciences is of interest as they figure as both analysts and designers if PE events and mediators between society and technology. How can the role/agency of the social  sciences in PE processes be conceptualized? Which role conflicts or normative dilemmas arise from it?

KEYWORDS:  public engagement; new and emerging technologies