Professor, Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard Kennedy School


STS in a Post-Truth Age

In a time of growing skepticism toward expert rationality, some have been tempted to suggest that STS’s intellectual direction needs to be altered, moving away from deconstruction of science’s authority toward more exposés of corrupt practices within the sciences that, in effect, betray science’s search for truth.  Drawing on my own experiences in building STS in the US, and also internationally, I will suggest that this is not the time to abandon skepticism.  Rather, we should refocus our field’s critical energies on the links between power and knowledge that account for the problematic texture of modernity.  This means widening the lens of STS to include more domains of knowledge-making and adopting a stance of symmetry that is unafraid to question the epistemic foundations of authority in all its guises.  I will propose some neglected avenues of research that could prove especially valuable in this time of technological as well as political upheaval.


Professor,  Harro van Lente, Maastricht University


Needs and technology: new questions for STS

 STS research has challenged the standard notion that technologies are developed to fulfil pre-given needs. Empirical studies show that when technologies are promised, developed and used, many things change in the same movement, including needs. Eventually, when needs have become self-evident they may turn into rights. The malleability of needs raises empirical questions about how novelty and needs are co-produced and whether such changes can be anticipated. It also raises conceptual and theoretical questions how needs, wants, desires, preferences and rights relate. In this lecture I will investigate cases of established technologies and needs, and contrast these with cases of emerging needs. In particular I introduce the case of space tourism to trace the fostering of novel needs. Several operators now offer space travel for private persons, or, at least, promise to organize such travels on a regular basis in the near future, with dropping costs. In the attempts to define and inhabit the prospective market for space tourism, particular visions crystallize of the future of space tourism – and why people would need it. Yet, when needs are not starting points but end results of technological change, the question arises what desirable directions are.


Associate Professor, Mianna Meskus, Tampere University


Craft, biology and aging: Exploring the material politics of science

Aging is a matter of increasing concern in current societies, queried and debated from various directions including cultural, social, biological, political and ethical perspectives. In the context of our understanding on the ‘normal’ human life span, research on biology of aging plays a central part in problematizing the basic mechanisms of and envisioning novel ways of aging ‘well’. Using stem cell research as case study, this talk theorizes the craft qualities of knowledge production with and on living materials. Furthermore, I discuss scientific craftwork on stem cells in relation to political stakes in knowledge production on embodied de-generative and re-generative mechanisms of old age. I am interested in the tensions and controversies that biology of aging opens up in how we understand the disintegration of the mind and degeneration of the body in current society. The entangled questions I wish to explore are: How is biology of aging aspiring to intervene in the paradigmatic life crises of aging and death? How are lively entities such as stem cells mediating these interventions and how should we as STS scholars make sense of these beings? Where and how does politics emerge when we begin to see aging at the level of cellular interaction?


Professor Maria Nedeva, University of Manchester


Studying Research Evaluation: from thick descriptions to comparative analysis

Research evaluation has been studied for several decades but research on the various arrangements really became established after the mid-1990s. This interest trailed the changing ratio between funding modalities for universities, with preference shifting towards competitive, project grants, and the rise of selectivity applied to the more traditional, institutional research funding stream. Furthermore, pioneering research evaluation arrangements, like the ones in the UK and Australia, reached a level of maturity, drawing attention to a range of academic and policy concerns. This presentation has two aims: first, drawing on analysis of over 350 ‘research evaluation’ related academic and policy contributions would highlight five major themes that have been addressed and reflect on how this state-of-the-art relates to the research agenda of research on research evaluation. Next, an analytical framework for the study of research evaluation arrangements would be discussed.