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Trans-Continental Lessons in Problem-Centred STS Institution Building

Fri, August 31, 11:00am to 12:30pm, ICC, E3.5


How do we do problem-centred STS in university environments which remain structured by disciplinary concerns? In this talk, we bring together our collective experiences of STS institution-building via research, training, mentoring and nurturing capacity in different continents to address this question. In the early 1990s, it was possible for scholars (Brante et al 1993) to argue that STS was dominated by studies of ‘calm’ forms of scientific content and that more attention was needed to (‘hot’) controversies and to greater engagement between science and society. Twenty-five years later, public engagement and controversies involving science are central concerns in STS, in turn generating new challenges and opportunities for our field. These issues have also become research topics in their own right, including within the institutional homes that we inhabit (CPAS, the Australian Centre for Public Awareness of Science, and ISS, the UK’s Institute for Science and Society), and collaborations that we are a part of (Arizona State University, and the Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation). Inspired by the questions posed by this panel and the wider 4S theme of ‘making and doing STS’, we subject these modes of institutionalisation to reflexive scrutiny. We explore lessons and future possibilities arising from different STS-inspired ways of organising academic communities in order to address societal problems of innovation, sustainability, global development and communication.