SCIENCE AND PUBLIC IN DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES

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SCIENCE AND PUBLIC IN DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES

Prague, October 25th 2012

Charles university of Prague, Karolinum, Ovocný trh 5, Prague 1

(you can enter from Celetná 20, Prague 1)

Organizers: Charles University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Sociological Studies and Green Circle, the association of Czech environmental NGOs in cooperation with the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe

The main aim of the conference is to create a forum for exchange the ideas about various forms and roles of knowledge and expertise in decision-making processes in current societies. The conference focuses on the discussion of two main questions (1) Forms of public participation in decision-making processes - benefits, costs and limits (How to achieve sustainable and effective public participation and deliberation? Is it possible to improve the cooperation among public and empowered spheres within current institutional frameworks? Do the broader deliberation and participation bring the better governance and democracy?), (2) The links between science, public and empowered spheres (What are risks and benefits of opening up the science institutions to non-scientific interests? How should scientists relate to politics, policy and civil society? What are the links between science and public expertise and experience?).

The conference aims to engage people both from within and outside academia to the discussion of these and related questions.

For participation please register here. There is no conference fee.

In case of any questions contact us via e-mail konference@vedavakci.cz.

Conference Programme

Wednesday, 24th October

19:00 Conference Dinner I

 

Thursday, 25th October

9:00 - 9:30 Registration, coffee
9:30 - 12:30 Opening plenary

► Andrew Stirling, University of Sussex
Professor of Science & Technology Policy (SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, The Sussex Energy Group, School of Business, Management and Economics), Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange (School of Business, Management and Economics)
Stirling is an interdisciplinary researcher, policy advisor and postgraduate teacher. He shifted from undergraduate astronomy through science studies to masters in archaeology and social anthropology and a doctorate in science and technology. Stirling is the author of more than a hundred academic papers on issues around ‘the precautionary principle’, ‘public participation’ and ‘technological transitions’. He’s been a member of several policy advisory committees for UK public bodies and international agencies including the EU Energy Consultative Committee, Expert Group on Science and Governance and as Rapporteur for the EC Science in Society Advisory Committee. Stirling was formerly a campaign director for Greenpeace International, later served on their Board and that of Greenpeace UK.

► Claudia Neubauer, Fondation Sciences Citoyennes
Claudia Neubauer is co-founder and director of Fondation Sciences Citoyennes, a nonprofit organization that aims at democratizing sciences and technologies so that they serve common goods and a socially and ecologically more just world. Dr. Neubauer has a PhD in human genetics and a Masters in scientific journalism. She has been working on numerous issues such as preimplantation genetic diagnosis, nanotechnology, scientific citizenship, national and European research systems, and expertise and research capacities of civil society organizations. She is (co)-author of reports for the French Ministry of Research, the Office for Technology Assessment at the German Parliament, and the European Commission. Dr. Neubauer is board member of the European Network of scientists for social and environmental responsibility (ENSSER) and member of the Unit 'Foresight' of the Social, Economic and Environmental Council of the French region Bretagne.

► Zdenek Konopásek, Center for Theoretical Study
As sociologist of science, he is based at the Center for Theoretical Study, the institute for advanced studies of Charles University in Prague and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. Also, he lectures qualitative research methods, sociology of science and sociological theory at the Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University in Brno. His main areas currently are STS (science and technology studies), especially complex relationships between expertise and democratic politics; an interactionist study of power and resistance under state socialism; and computer assisted qualitative data analysis. He published a book Estetika sociálního státu: O krizi reprezentace (nejen) v sociálním zabezpečení [The welfare state aesthetics: The crisis of representation (not only) in social security] (GplusG 1998) and edited Our lives as database: Doing a sociology of ourselves - Czech social transitions in autobiographical research dialogues (Charles University Press 2000).

Abstract:
What is meant by saying that a controversy is socio-technical? Against simplified views of how to pursue democracy in technological societies

During last several decades, science and technology studies (STS) have had developed a convincing view, which challenges the idea of something purely technical as well as the idea of science external to what we call society or politics. Instead, STS authors write about complex socio-technical controversies that are articulated within a kind of hybrid forums, i.e., assemblies consisting of various elements and mixing together the lay and the expert, science and politics, nature and culture. This view has had some impact on the official EU and national policies and ideologies aiming at "democratization of expertise" (Liberatore 2001), "technical democracy" (Callon et al. 2009), or "robust and sustainable knowledge society" (Felt & Wynne 2007). The STS notion of the socio-technical is taken as a support for various forms of public and stakeholder involvement in what traditionally used to be a matter of expert assessment and decision making. Especially after the painful European experience with GMO it has become commonplace that a "social (ethical, political, cultural) dimension" is taken more seriously. Formally organized public consultations and dialogues are taken as prevention against possible social conflicts. I want to argue, however, that a number of shortcomings occurred during this translation of STS lessons into the language and procedures of practical politics. Based on my recent experience with the EU project on socio-technical challenges for implementing geological disposal of nuclear waste I will clarify some typical misunderstandings about the STS perspective. Contrary to what is too often supposed, talking about an issue as socio-technical (in the STS sense of the term) does not simply mean that certain political aspects are debated besides/before/after the technical ones. Rather, it implies approaching all possible aspects as both social and technical. To take the notion of socio-technical seriously thus means debating the social and the technical together, at the same time and as a single thing. Such an approach, I will also insist, can hardly be achieved/embodied by means of inviting selected activists (representing "the social") and engineers (representing "the technical") to spend time together exchanging standpoints and perspectives in a "fair dialogue". When meetings with similar design are organized (and they often are), it not only deviates from what can reasonably be argued from within STS, but it also makes the idea of democratic governance in the age of science and technology empty and perverted.
12:30 - 13:20 Lunch
13:20 - 14:50 Session 1 - PRESENTATION

Co-production of knowledge
chair: Karel Čada, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University of Prague/The ANU Centre for European Studies
Tomáš Ryška (Faculty of Humanities, Charles University of Prague): Blind knowledge
Abstract:
"You all come here, ask questions, get what you need and we, Akha, never get anything back", hears a researcher authorized by a state or non-governmental agency to conduct a survey among ethnic highland minorities in northern Thailand. The local inhabitants, victims of various forms of social suffering, have provided their 'local knowledge' to representatives of the state or non-state agencies too many times. While these agencies fulfil the stated purpose of their own existence and satisfy interests of their clients and donors, inhabitants of the periphery, the very providers of the 'local knowledge', experience a little increase in the quality of their lives. Similar scenarios are common and can be regularly observed in other parts of the world. A development project to increase the quality of life of the marginalized population in Laos conducted between 2001-2005 plunged the recepients of the aid into an ever deeper poverty and resulted in a terrifying increase of mortality. The project was carried not only by the state agencies but also by international community as well as by bilateral organizations. The role of non-governmental organizations was no less significant. Anthropological studies of school education offer similarly warning pictures. Schooling of the poor, minorities and marginalized groups of population, the UN MDG and one of the most popular development instruments, does not meet its alleged aims. Recepient of the aid do not experience the promised increase in the quality of lives neither the purported upward social and economic mobility.

The anthropologist James Scott, influenced by the Austrian tradition of economic theory, considered the failure and negative impact of social ingeneering in its central planning. He believed that a success of a project depends on the 'local knowledge'. In a similar sense, as a response to the long-term failure of the development efforts, the 80s and 90s of the twenties century brought a significant restructuring in the political economy of regional and international development. The role of state decreased and the responsibility have been handed over to the non-governmental organizations. These grassroots institutions, many believed, represented the convenient instrument for dealing with problems of local communities with whom NGOs cooperated closely. Yet, the above mentioned examples demonstrate that contemporary projects for the poor, minorities and marginalized groups, although often preceded by a research of the 'local knowledge', do not suffer from a number of weak points any less than the efforts of the pre-modern states.

Similarly to the limited ability of the ruler in pre-modern states to utilize a value of its forests or to collect taxes from its subjects, it is the inability to generate sufficient data what hinders the endeavour of the state or non-state agencies in their effort to assist the disadventaged segment of population even today. Despite the fact state agencies as well as non-governmental organizations seek for appropriate data, oftentimes hire an expert consultant to conduct a research and make a use of the generated data, the initial purpose of development projects, argues American anthropologist James Ferguson, does usually not meet its aims and purposes. Based on a research data I have been generating in Laos and northern Thailand for the last twelve years, I point to methodological afflictions that, as I argue, constitute undesirable attributes of the 'action research'. By uncovering the weak points I would like to contribute to a better understanding of the problems related to the action research so the methodological maladies characteristic for a consultant and development project research could be overcome.

Wannapa Leerasiri, Pairat Trakarnsirinont (Faculty of political Science and Public Administration, Chiang Mai University, Thailand): Smog Problem in Chiang Mai, Thailand: Quest for a Solution from the Communities, for the Communities
Abstract:
For half a decade, smog problem has been a threatening challenge not only for the Northern region of Thailand but also neighboring countries namely Myanmar and Lao PDR. Studies confirm that one of the fundamental causes of toxic smog is the open burning of agricultural wastes in highland reserve forest areas, totally caused by human. During the dry season (from late December to early April), according to a Geographical Information System (GIS) map, there were hotspots spread all over the area that have high production of corn as cash crop as well as reserved forest areas. For five consecutive years, the level of small particulate matters (PM10-praticulate matter less than 10 microns per one cubic meter) reached critical level of more than 300 in dry season as comparing to non hazardous level of 120 microns.

As a result, the Faulty of Political Science and Public Administration, Chiang Mai University, with cooperation with the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Medicine, and the Faculty of Agriculture conducted an action-based research study in order to identify alternative models to solve the problem and to determine which solution fits the local community best. The research was based on local people's participation with help of local authorities and local administrative organizations in forms of public forum, field research, and focus group interview. Initially, this project was conducted in 7 pilot areas then expanded into 50 communities in 25 districts in Chiang Mai Province. From the studies, 8 categories, with total of 20 choices of alternative models were identified. Research results were presented to the communities in order to implement these solutions.

Study also found that success factors of smog reduction measures is not solely based on new technologies, but also participation from local communities in highland reserve forest areas as well as knowledge transfer mechanisms. It is also crucial to set up knowledge transferring unit in the community which can network with other communities as well as knowledge center at Chiang Mai University.

Simon Smith (University of Leeds), Jiří Kabele (Charles University of Prague): Organizing and evaluating collaborative research. An anonymized case study of broken chains of agency
Abstract:
Like all organizing processes, collaborative research is simultaneously performed and normatively framed. Frameworks for organizing are concretized through negotiation and deliberation around boundary objects that configure shared inter-domains in which action happens. Boundary objects link different domains and their members into chains of agency (synchronizing common agendas) as well as forging links across temporal divides by integrating inter-domains into individual biographies and organizational histories that transcend domain-specific life prospects.

In this paper our focus is on the configuration of a shared inter-domain in which researchers and health service managers attempted to work together innovatively. Our account focuses on an evaluation process and its outputs in which one of the authors was involved. The paper describes how the evaluators were enrolled in the collaboration as to construct a series of boundary objects consisting of texts and workshop-style meetings. Construed as resources for imagining the 'system version' of the game/play framework as a device for organizational learning and thence for ongoing collaborative auditing, the value to participants depended on these artefacts' compatibility with their other life prospects as well as on the social and political legitimacy of the evaluators' account of events. This in turn depended on the a/symmetrical positioning of the evaluation/evaluator in the emergent inter-domain, which we interpret in terms of agency theory and related theories of social hierarchy.

What makes the findings of an evaluation legitimate and action-able for the subjects of the evaluation? Since this evaluation was not commissioned by the funders or other actors to whom the collaboration was formally accountable, but internally, to provide continuous direct feedback to participants, its legitimacy was self-authorizing. This allowed participants to detach it from their own programmes of action and to disarm its perlocutionary force. In search of the 'conditions of felicity' that would allow research findings to 'act' in the world, evaluators re-attached them to objects that circulate in the academic domain. This necessitated a selective reassertion of certain heuristic principles at the expense of others, favouring autonomy and neutrality, for example, over public debate and feedback / member checking.

We suggest that the fate of the evaluation was symptomatic of a degradation of the inter-domain towards a more collusive form of cooperation. This can be indicative of the normalization of collaboration: system versions of inter-domains underestimate coordination costs, and hence the ongoing configuration of regime versions inevitably involves a certain deformation. This becomes problematic if it generates a self-defeating succession of reforms.

14:50 - 15:10
Coffee break
15:10 - 16:40 Session 2 - WORKSHOP

Conceptualising and making the publics for (social) science research
► Simon Smith (University of Leeds) and Nick Mahony (Open University), UK
Academia is changing, knowledge production is becoming more distributed, and participation is assuming new forms and formats. The academic or scientific field itself is undergoing a crisis of reproduction that mirrors the multiple crises affecting contemporary capitalism and democracy. All these trends have led to a blurring of the boundaries of the scientific field, with an unprecedented transparency to methods, challenges to traditional ways in which knowledge is validated and consecrated, and a myriad of calls (both top-down and bottom-up) for scientific research to be coupled more effectively with social or economic demand/need. This workshop will explore the sources and implications of these changes by focusing not on the interaction between science and public conceived as two actors or two fields of action, but on processes of public mediation and formation (not to mention translation, support, enactment, reconfiguration and innovation) as well as on the performative dimension of many public discourses and discourses with publics.
16:40 - 17:00 Coffee break
17:00 - 18:30 Session 3 - Guided Tour

Members of the Prague NGO "Praguewatch" prepered a conference topic related guided tour arround the city centre. Praguewatch runs an internet guide to Prague’s controversial cases of urban planning, big development projects, parks and allotments under threat and alleged cases of corruption and clientelism. A group of people, academics, experts and engaged citizens, mostly interested in different aspects of urban development strive to enhance the debate on conflicts around the use of public space and resources. You can explore the city through the lenses of public participation.
19:00 Conference Dinner II

 

SCIENTIFIC AND ORGANIZING COMMITTEE

► Karel Čada, ISS FSV UK Praha
► Jana Dlouhá, COŽP UK Praha
► Tomáš Dvořák, ISS FSV UK Praha, SoÚ AV ČR
► Martin Hájek, ISS FSV UK Praha
► Tereza Pospíšilová, FHS UK Praha
► Kateřina Ptáčková, ISS FSV UK Praha, Zelený kruh
► Jan Skalík, Zelený kruh, MU Brno
► Tereza Stöckelová, SoÚ AV ČR, FHS UK Praha

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