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Sociology Seminar with: Ruth McNally

Date: 31 January 2012 Time: 16:30-18:00

Venue: FASS MR 2 & 3

PROTEE and STS as 'socio-techno therapy': a case studyof reflexivity involving a field trial with GM trees

Ruth McNally (ESRC Cesagen, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University)

When it comes to doing something about the troubled relations between science and emergent and controversial technosciences, dialogue and engagement is becoming increasingly commonplace (Irwin 2006). More than just a remedy for a democratic deficit, dialogue between science and society is intended to be a vehicle for making scientific knowledge production more reflexive, by which is meant more responsive to societal concerns and preferences in its choice of research questions and methodologies.

However, whilst STS research (post-normal science, mode-2 knowledge production) is often associated with this turn to dialogue, the extent to which reflexivity at the level of scientific practice has been realized is questionable. Furthermore, although STS researchers are sometimes involved as skilled intermediaries, it can sometimes be hard for STS itself to speak and be listened to in these dialogues.

As an alternative to dialogue and engagement between science and society, this paper describes an attempt at reflexivity through dialogue and engagement at a more intimate level, namely, between STS researchers on the one hand, and an individual research project on the other, through a series of dialogic encounters dubbed 'socio-techno therapy'.

The method we used was based on PROTEE, a project management 'tool' developed by a consortium of STS researchers and industrialists led by Bruno Latour. The research was a collaboration with Helena Valve of the Finnish Environment Institute, and a scientific research project that had used a field trial to assess the risks of genetically modified (GM) trees.

In this seminar I will describe and discuss what we learnt about reflexivity, PROTEE, and STS as therapy.


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Science Studies, Sociology


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