Mikko Salmela, Martina Merz, Miles MacLeod, Inkeri Koskinen, Johan Munck af Rosenschöld, Leena Tulkki, and Anita Välikangas
Contact: mikko.salmela (at) helsinki.fi
In this symposium we focus on the recent shift from discipline-driven to more demand-driven university research characterized by greater significance of inter- and transdisciplinarity. This shift is widely justified by the claim that scientific knowledge should not be produced only for its own sake, but for solving real-world problems together with other societal actors. However, the long term epistemic implications of demand-driven inter- and transdisciplinarity in scientific knowledge production are still largely unknown. This has raised worries both in science and technology studies and in the philosophy of science: What happens to the epistemic role of disciplinary communities if research becomes increasingly interdisciplinary? What will the scientific and societal consequences of the current focus on solution-oriented research and measurable societal impact be like? How do the metrics used in the assessment of inter- and transdisciplinary research projects affect their epistemic quality? We suggest to draw such worries together under the umbrella concept of epistemic sustainability. Our central assumption is that, in order to be sustainable, science should not only respond to societal needs, but must also maintain its ‘internal’ sustainability, i.e. the key mechanisms warranting that scientific knowledge upholds its distinctive epistemic character. This session welcomes theoretical and empirical reflections on challenges of sustainable knowledge production in inter- and transdisciplinary research. The suggested topics may involve but need not limit to tensions and inequalities in inter- and transdisciplinary knowledge production, institutional preconditions of sustainable knowledge production, as well as theoretical reflections on the notion of epistemic sustainability.