Tag Archives: STS

STS-informed approaches to biobanking, medical technologies and biotechnology: A workshop review

The two-day Research Workshop on Science, Technology, Society (STS) / History, Technology, Society (HTS): Bioeconomy, Biotechnology, Medical Technologies was held in Athens, Greece, on 19–20 April 2018.1 It took place in the hospitable seminar room of the Historical Archive of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, located in the lively city centre. The organizers designed this workshop in the context of the ongoing research project “The public debate on umbilical cord blood banking in Greece: Approaches from the interdisciplinary field Science, Technology, Society (STS)”, funded by the Onassis Foundation (Special Grant and Support Program for Scholars’ Association Members) and hosted by the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, School of Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens).2 An open call, specifying the aims of the workshop, was widely circulated in order to attract contributions by interested scholars. The additional funding secured through the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology – EASST Fund 2018 made travel grants to scholars from abroad possible, in order to facilitate their participation in the workshop and to promote the exchange of ideas. 

The design of the workshop served the purpose of bringing together scholars working on umbilical cord blood (UCB) biobanking and the STS/HTS research community working on broader themes regarding biotechnology and medical technologies. The programme of the workshop was designed so as to provoke critical discussions about the theoretical frameworks and the methodologies employed in current STS research projects, in order to contribute to developing novel research questions in the respective empirical fields. The idea of the workshop was to cultivate dialogue, following the recent STS interest in the development and functioning of biobanking practices, among other developments in the technosciences, in the context of a growing bioeconomy (see, for instance, Pavone and Goven, 2017; Gardner and Webster, 2017; Birch, 2017). Consideration of biobanking practices as well as a range of biomedical technologies in modern society, through perspectives from the humanities and the social sciences, was the focus of the workshop, in order to open up discussions among the participants and the broader Greek STS/HTS research community. The sessions aimed to provoke detailed and wide-ranging discussion on concerted research efforts from diverse geographical sites and varied interdisciplinary foci. Indeed, the diverse thematic and geographic contributions (from Europe, North America, Africa and Asia) matched this scope. Furthermore, the programme of the workshop reflected this ambition. Apart from the four traditional sessions, the workshop included an invited speech and a session with stakeholders from the Greek biobanking sector. The audience and the faculty members chairing the sessions engaged in thought-provoking dialogue and proved the fruition of this initiative in the local research community.

Fig. 1: The Workshop Poster

The first session, Appropriating STS/HTS concepts and perspectives in dissertation research about medical technologies, provided the opportunity to elaborate on the methodological challenges of interdisciplinary research in biomedicine. Marilena Pateraki presented her ongoing research focusing on the ways to interpret the variation in body-technology relations in the case of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for persons with Parkinson’s disease in the Greek healthcare system. Her ethnographic research directs attention to theorizing the relations brought about by implanted technologies and to appropriating such technologies in a specific sociotechnical setting. Kostas Raptis addressed the historical encounters of digitalization efforts in medical diagnostics in relation to the conceptualization of death. His contribution emphasized the need to deal with the sociality of technologies in biomedicine, tracing the conceptualization of death in specific works. In her presentation, Aspasia Kandaraki focused on research practices, studied through video recordings, in order to analyse the embodied and experiential character of real-time work with digital technology in a medical imaging software development laboratory. 

In the second session, Trends in biotechnology policy and bioeconomy, Yulie Foka-Kavalieraki presented the initial results from her research on the attitudes of Greek citizens toward biotechnology. Then, Blessing Silaigwana directed attention to biobanking governance. Given the diverse regulatory options in European countries, Silaigwana he argued for the need to support ethical biobank research in the context of developing recommendations for biobanking practice in Africa. 

Fig. 2: Blessing Silaigwana presentation in Session 2

In the third session, Rethinking biovalues and the political economy of biobanking, the presenters drew on case studies to highlight the relation of transnational developments and local characteristics in configurations related to novel biomedical technologies. Polina Vlasenko talked about the political economy of transnational ova provision, by analysing the processes of the generation and appropriation of the economic cycle of ova produced in Ukraine for exchange in the global reproductive market. She argued that the persistent non-recognition of egg donors as fully fledged workers (as well as mothers, persons, bodies) reinforces the invisibility of their labour and disposability of their bodies. Amishi Panwar discussed the market of cord blood stem cells in India. She juxtaposed traditional methods of storing the umbilical cord with the recent growth in biobanking practices, and stressed the importance of anthropological research to better capture the cultural and historical significance of storing cord blood. Constantinos Morfakis and Katerina Vlantoni examined the factors that accommodated the growth of private/family UCB banking in Greece, making Greece the “El Dorado of private UCB banks’, by paying attention to the processes of transforming UCB as a form of biological insurance and to the wider economics of the Greek health sector.

Fig. 3: Panel discussion in Session 3

In the fourth session, STS and Biobanks: Opening the “Black Box” of UCB biobanks, Jennie Haw presented her research on the enrolment into allogeneic circulation of cord blood in the case of Canada’s National Public Cord Blood Bank. Examining cord blood banking as manufacturing biologics, Haw suggested that it foregrounds the production of biovalue and biocapital in biological materials, and illustrates the tensions between manufacturing and clinical logics. In the following presentation, Lorenzo Beltrame discussed the biopolitics of UCB banking in Italy and the UK, by focusing on the way that the collection of cord blood units is organized and on the strategies to involve donors. He argued for paying attention to the participation of citizens/donors as it relates to the target of covering the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) variability in possible recipients. Astha Jaiswal shifted the focus on the dominant discourse (choice, control and reassurance) constructed by commercial UCB banks for banking UCB. Her findings suggested that the need for private/family banking has been created on the grounds of the responsibility of expectant parents to do the “best” for the child (choice), of not missing this “once in a life time opportunity”(control), and of avoiding the distress of a future illness (reassurance). Concluding this session, Pablo Santoro reflected on the changes undergone by UCB banking sectors during the last decade and on how recent STS-informed approaches to biobanking, encompassing a renewed attention to materiality, to processes of commodification, and to hybridity, can shed light on some of the current features of UCB banking in Spain. 

The fifth, and last, session of the workshop had a different scope: to engage with stakeholders in the Greek UCB banking sectors. The rationale of the session Engaging with stakeholders: Institutional arrangements and bioethical challenges in UCB biobanking, was that given the research focus of the workshop participants, most of whom have conducted primary research on the topic in other national settings, the opportunity to interact with stakeholders from Greece would be stimulating. Each of the invited speakers (Takis Vidalis, scientific officer on the National Bioethics Commission, and Vassiliki Gkioka and Aggeliki Xagorari, both representing public UCB banks) made a short presentation about the institutional challenges that have arisen with the operation of UCB banks, their view in relation to the opposition between public and private/family biobanks for the future of the bioeconomy sector, and their opinion with regard to the emergence of this opposition in the case of Greece. The presentations were followed by a lively and stimulating discussion with the workshop participants, providing a basis for cross-national comparisons. Representatives from the private UCB banking sector were also invited (through contact with the Greek UCB Banks Association – EETOA), but, unfortunately, did not participate in the session despite their initial acceptance.

Fig. 4: Lorenzo Beltrame delivering the Invited Speech

On the evening of the first day of the workshop, Lorenzo Beltrame delivered a speech entitled “Cord Blood and the City: On the hybrid economies of international exchange of cord blood for transplantation”. A broad audience of about 60 people, including undergraduate students, attended the invited speech. Beltrame presented the ways the institutional boundaries between public and private UCB banking and the distinction between redistribution and market exchanges are blurred and decoupled. He convincingly argued that heterogeneous pressures co-shape private and public UCB banking; nonetheless, public banking, while not being a paradigm of redistributive economy, is neither one of market economy. He paid attention to the international exchange of a cord blood unit as a transplant and argued that it is “a particular form of market exchange coherent with the moral economy”. Beltrame further elaborated on his argument that public banks engage in cord blood exchange, a practice that “resembles the economy of the medieval city, based on redistribution supported by regulated market exchanges at set prices”.

The speech, in tandem with all the contributions to the workshop, shed light on a range of issues worth exploring regarding the shaping of and the complex practices involved in medical technologies and biotechnological innovations, on both the local and global scale. With regard to biobanking practices, the participants showed that case studies dealing with current practices in different national settings could offer more nuanced understanding of the processes of commercialization, commodification and biovalue production, together with a renewed attention to the materialities involved. Further perspectives could bring together the dynamics of cord blood bioeconomies with those of the political economy of healthcare.

Fig. 5: Workshop participants during lunch break

 Discussions flourished during the two days of the workshop, and continued during the social events, including lunch and dinner. During dinner, in a terrace under the shade of the Acropolis hill, the participants animatedly exchanged their ideas and discussed future opportunities to meet up again. As can be seen, EASST, through the allocation of travel grants, made possible an important forum for bringing together STS scholars, and gave impetus to the future publication of the workshop contributions.


 This workshop was co-funded by the EASST Fund 2018.

1 For the full programme, see: http://www.phs.uoa.gr/hst/Projects/Project_Biobanks_Workshop.html

2 The duration of the project has been from October 2016 up to September 2018. For more, see http://www.phs.uoa.gr/hst/Projects/Project_Biobanks.html.



Birch, K. (2017). Rethinking Value in the Bio-economy: Finance, Assetization, and the Management of Value. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 42(3), 460–490.

Gardner, J., & Webster, A. (2017). Accelerating Innovation in the Creation of Biovalue: The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 42(5), 925–946.

Pavone, V., & Goven, J. (eds) (2017). Bioeconomies: Life, Technology, and Capital in the 21st Century. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

STS as participant in policy worlds

Fig. 1: People-place/policy landscape, Santa Teresa, Central Australia. Photo by Michaela Spencer

What happens when STS scholars become active participants in the emergence of policy worlds?

This question seems a natural corollary to the topic discussed in the last EASST Review editorial, where Andreas Kuznetsov (2019) suggested that there might be much that STS could offer when engaging with both science and social scientific research practices. It is also a question with which me and other STS colleagues working in a small regional university in northern Australia are frequently confronted with. This question worries in three directions. We worry about what happens to research and our responsibility to the academy, about what happens to policy and our responsibilities to members of government departments that we work with, and about what happens in the communities that the policies of those departments impact upon.

In our small regional university, research is intimately entangled with governance contexts. Much of our research funding is generated in partnerships with government and non-government organisations. It is also implicated in the policy challenges and problems that emerge when practices of Western governance and decision-making intersect with the vibrant and diverse sets of epistemic practices mobilised by Indigenous Australians, who are our close collaborators in urban and remote Indigenous communities. 

In this aspect at least our situation seems to differ starkly from European contexts. But does it? Perhaps considering the situation of STS in policy worlds in places that grapple with the aftermath of several hundred years of European colonising on a day-to-day basis might be useful for Europeans struggling to recognise and do difference in European policy worlds.

When science was the focus of inquiry in the emerging field of science and technology studies, focusing on the embedded participation of scientific researchers helped to query standard stories of representation (Latour and Woogar, 1986; Haraway, 1997). Associated with this shift, there was an implied call for scientists to become more overt about their complex and difficult work, admitting their participation in the emergence of knowledge claims and their complex hinterlands. Working as policy researchers, the implicated positioning we inhabit seems both similar and interestingly different. 

Recently, in the collaborative work negotiating how to evaluate government engagement in remote Aboriginal communities, we found subtle but significant controversies beginning to arise around the status of ‘evidence’ in our evidence-based policy research. We were involved with evaluating government policy practices around how government staff should engage cross-culturally (and in quite different epistemic conditions) in Aboriginal communities; places where Indigenous groups are collective landowners, and Indigenous forms of governance are recognised in Australian law. Our research contract assumed we would assess government engagement activities against processes and goals already identified as significant. However, the Indigenous co-researchers we were working with resisted this formation. They insisted instead, that it was the effective doing of engagment as partnership which itself evidences good engagement practices, and that it is this form of evidentiary practice that was approprate for policy reseach and evaluation. 

Around such seeming inconsistencies around what knowledge or evidence is, the whirring of gears around government policy implementation and evaluation seem to suddenly start to grind and slow, and even halt. If there is no representational gap between policy making and policy practice, or policy implementation and policy evaluation, how might we proceed? Here the particular and unique sensitivities of STS, and its attention to differences in epistemic practices, seem crucial if social science research and policy practices are to accommodate more-than-singular worlds (de la Cadena and Blaser, 2018), and the accountabilites of government departments are not to obscure other accountabiliites that are significant on the ground and in Indigenous communites. 

‘Back-then’ when STS spoke to narratives of scientific objectivity, there was a generalised sphere of understanding and practice to which this work was directed. If STS researchers are currently involved as social scientists entangled in policy worlds in the making – where our work involves discerning difference and ontological tensions – perhaps our interventions need to be more specific. Working at nodes of seeming disconnection, where epistemic practices meet and abrade (even though difficult to discern), attending to our responsibilities in the academy, as well as to funders and within community life may involve finding ways to recognise and work generatively with these impasses. In such work, there is also a commitment to maintaining and even magnifying the multiplicities revealed within the doing of resarch practices, as an outcome of engaged ontological work—making difference more discernable. This is to insist on valuing multiplicity as a policy good, and on finding ways for STS to participate and intervene in good, and less bad, policy practices (Verran, 2016).




de la Cadena, M., & Blaser, M. (Eds.). (2018) A World of Many Worlds. Duke University Press.

Kuznetsov, A. (2019) Changed but Undescribed? What STS Could Say on the Research Practices of Social Sciences. EASST Review, 38 (1).

Latour, B., & Woolgar, S. (1986) Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Knowledge. Princeton University Press.

Haraway, D. (1997) Modest_Witness@Second Millennium_FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouseTM, Routledge.

Verran, H. (2016) Researching Policy Goods for Australia’s Northern Regions, People.Policy.Place Seminar Series, Charles Darwin University, 17 February, 2016. https://vimeo.com/156517454 Accessed on 17 April, 2019.

STS (in) Turkey as Extitution

This article focuses on the creation of the STS TURKEY network and offers insights from its foundational meeting, showing how it is part of a larger story of STS (Science and Technology Studies) in Turkey. STS TURKEY’s foundational meeting was held on 3–4 October 2017 in Istanbul, hosted by the Orient-Institut Istanbul, Turkey. The goal of the meeting was, first, to introduce scholars interested in STS in Turkey to one another, and secondly, to start constructing a common vision and road map that is based on the participants’ current scholarly interests. In total, there were more than 46 participants, of whom about 15 were graduate students. The rest comprised scholars, independent researchers and NGO representatives. Represented areas included Science and Technology Studies, Medicine, Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy of Science, History of Science and Technology, Engineering, Industrial Design, Science Communication, Law and the Life Sciences (“biolaw”). During the two days the participants introduced existing academic programs and current research in STS, forge a vision for STS TURKEY and prepared a road map.

The beginnings of STS TURKEY (which is of course not the beginning of STS in Turkey)

Our own little history of working in and helping to shape Science and Technology Studies (STS) in Turkey is not very old. While and after having been trained in STS at Sheila Jasaonff’s Program on Science, Technology and Society, Melike Şahinol, a German of Turkish origins, looked also for similar programs in Turkey – including ones dealing with Turkey-specific historical and cultural impacts. As she could not find similar programs, she began doing research in the field of biotechnology policies in Turkey, while at the same time looking for Turkish researchers doing STS around the world. In 2010 Arsev Aydınoğlu, an alumnus from Hacettepe University, Ankara (Turkey) but studying at that time at the University Tennessee, and Şahinol met at the 4S Conference in Tokyo, where they discussed how hard it was to find researchers doing STS in Turkey. They agreed upon the importance for such a heterogeneous country as Turkey to develop adequate methods in dealing with socio-cultural problems stemming from Science and Technology, taking into account historical, cultural and religious factors. Both agreed upon the importance of an STS network in Turkey to provide a collaborative research platform for like-minded scholars and to improve STS in Turkey – as they could not find any appropriate network. Aydınoğlu returned to Tennessee, and completed his research on interdisciplinary collaboration and Şahinol continued doing her sociological research on neuroscientific practices. In the following years, they continued to communicate about setting up a STS TURKEY network.

Şahinol’s first collaboration with a Turkish scholar was with Emre Sünter, another scholar from METU, followed after having met during a workshop in Heidelberg for 4S Fellows at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory | European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBL|EMBO) Science and Society Summer School entitled “The Human Animal: Scientific, Social and Moral Perspectives.” Later that year, Şahinol and Sünter embarked on their first collaborative work on Science and Technology policies in Turkey when they jointly presented papers at conference in Paris and Copenhagen (Şahinol and Sünter, 2012a, 2012b). Meanwhile, Aydınoğlu was doing his postdoctoral fellowship at the NASA Astrobiology Institute. He was involved with the Astrobiology and Society Focus Group where as a group they focused on the societal implications of the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Aydinoglu organized a session at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science in San Diego, U.S. and presented a paper at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement of American Science in San Jose (2013, 2015). Meanwhile, Harun Kaygan shared a rising interest in design scholarship in STS-based perspectives, especially the work of Latour and collaborators on the agency of non-humans. Kaygan completed his PhD at Brighton University in 2012 with a thesis on nationalism in technology development and design processes. He started working as an Assistant Professor in Industrial Design at METU, teaching ANT and feminist STS at graduate level, exploring the intersections of STS and design research (e.g. Kaygan 2016; Kaygan et al., 2017).

In 2015 Şahinol was hired as Research Fellow and Head of the Research Field “Human, Medicine, and Society” at the Orient-Institut Istanbul and organized STS-related lecture series and workshops (Lecture Series 2016/17: “Designing Nature, Upgrading Human Life? Reflections on how Medicine, Science and Technology Transform our Lives”, Conference: “Upgrades of Nature, Future Bodies: Interdisciplinary and International Perspectives”). Since Aydınoğlu was working as a Tubitak-Marie Curie FP7 Cofund Fellow at the Research Center for Science and Technology Policies (STPS) at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara (Turkey), they began making lists with people doing STS and searched again for STS programs. In the meantime, Kaygan had been in search for STS programs and scholars for interdisciplinary collaborations around design and technology development. Their first unofficial meeting together occurred in 2016. Until the foundational meeting on 3-4 October 2017, Aydinoglu, Kaygan and Şahinol identified a number of STS programs, fields including STS courses or STS networks, which have played a key role in Turkey: Ankara University, Science and Society Studies (Program on Science and Society in Turkish), Işık University, Science, Technology and Society Branch (in English), İstanbul Technical University, Science, Technology and Society (program in English), İstanbul University, History of Science Department (History of Science program in English), Middle East Technical University, Science and Technology Policy Studies (Economy and Policy based program in English), Özyeğin University, Design, Technology and Society (program in English), Bilkent STS Network (http://ge301.bilkent.edu.tr/bilkentstsnetwork/) and IstanbuLab (https://stsistanbul.org/). It turned out that ITÜ had started a STS program in 2000 within the European Master’s Programme on Society, Science and Technology, which was closed in 2005 due to limited interest, then restarted in 2015. Meanwhile, METU’s interdisciplinary graduate program on STPS that focuses on innovation, technological change, and science policy has been active for two decades.

According to the format of the foundational meeting that we, Aydınoğlu, Kaygan and Şahinol, had organized, several scholars from the listed universities above gave ten-minute talks about their STS programs while everybody else joining the foundational meeting gave brief 3-minute presentations on their topics related to STS.

STS TURKEY – Visions, Discussions, Extitutionalization

The meeting started with Şahinol’s opening speech. She thanked EASST for the funding, the Orient-Institut Istanbul for the support and many others who supported the founding of STS TURKEY, e.g. Harvard STS, STS-CH, DASTS, de-STS, etc. She was particularly grateful for Prof. Sheila Jasanoff for providing the first podcast message to STS TURKEY. She pointed out that Science and Technology (S&T) programs were important institutions for understanding how S&T shape society (and vice versa). She noted the implications of S&T for society with regards to one’s expectations and ethical responsibilities, in addition to how one could become responsible designers and users, and how this also affects any area of policy, consumerism, economy, agricultural production, and healthy lifestyles. According to Jasanoff, a systematic study of S&T through a network of dedicated scholars was an important way to tackle these issues. And since STS has no venues for interaction and academic exchange like those in the natural sciences, the network, STS TURKEY, would be a valuable experiment towardsthe creation of such a venue.

Şahinol provided the audience with the details of how the core group Aydinoglu, Kaygan and Şahinol developed their vision for the STS TURKEY network together, and came to organize the foundational meeting. Their goals were focused on the improvement of scholarly communication and exchange in the field of STS in Turkey and to facilitate contact amongst scholars, advocating an interdisciplinary approach to STS using multiple methods. Underlining the network’s supportive tension, they found it important to promote STS in Turkey by organizing conferences, as well as supporting various events and publications, and so increase the visibility and diffusion of the STS approach in Turkey. Another goal of the network is to stimulate and support teaching on the subject at all levels, to aid in the development of STS-related skills amongst researchers and PhD candidates, including theoretical knowledge and methodological know-how. Şahinol discussed the rapid developments in the fields of Science and Technology confronting modern societies with new challenges and creating sophisticated socio-technical, socio-cultural and socio-political processes.

The establishment of the STS network in Turkey, as Şahinol pointed out, is of particular value since Turkey, as a young and dynamic society, needs to find ways to deal with social and cultural problems arising from technology. Şahinol also stressed the importance of bringing together critical minds as an important first step in establishing the network of STS TURKEY. It is not only focused on critical thinking; it is also open to difference and values innovative approaches. Although STS TURKEY members come from different sub-fields and branches, they meet at the same point: Science, Technology and Society of Turkey. Anyone aware of the deep transformations of their own fields due to advancing technologies and interested in the social context of these transformations must go beyond standard thinking and value empirical engagement with the ethical, cultural and political problems associated within these transformations. STS offers the theoretical background and methodologies for developing innovative ways for tackling these problems, and for providing social solutions. However, since STS must first of all provide training and the educational background for understanding the relationship between Science, Technology and Society in Turkey, the pedagogical aspect of STS programs at Turkish Universities was of particular importance.

With this in mind, Şahinol, as well as many other participants, stated that STS TURKEY’s goal should be to support such programs, including providing international contacts and organizing annual meetings (in different Turkish cities), so that STS scholars and people interested in S&T could share and discuss their work. For providing that support, in both Şahinol’s and other speakers’ talks, the importance of creating a common vocabulary in Turkish for S&T issues was highlighted as a critical issue in order to enlarge the scope of such discussions within and beyond various existing academic circles. Şahinol concluded her talk by pointing out that STS TURKEY already had several social media channels where one could keep up to date with news and activities (http://ststurkey.net, facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ststurkey/, twitter: https://twitter.com/STS_Turkey, youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGOQGkzklf4arKB-CEQ_EEA/videos) and reported the actual number of members. Social media coverage and membership has since doubled.

Following Şahinol’s opening talk, the participants gave brief 3-minute introductions while Aydınoğlu acted as discussant. The group of participants was diverse and the debates were interdisciplinary, ranging from practitioners of medicine and biologists, to sociologists, designers, artists and specialists in law, the history of medicine, and ethics.

In the following session, the academic programs in Turkey relevant to broader STS topics were introduced by their department heads. Prof. Dr. Melek Dosay Gökdoğan talked about the newly established Science and Society Studies Master’s Program at Ankara University. Prof. Dr. Aydan Turanlı of Istanbul Technical University introduced their Science, Technology, and Society Master’s Program. The History of Medicine and Ethics Program (undergraduate and graduate) of Acıbadem University was presented by Prof. Yeşim Işıl Ülman. Lastly, Prof. Dr. Feza Günergun, presented activities and studies in the history of science and technology at Istanbul University’s Department of the History of Science. Each presentation was followed by a Q&A session.

The overall session was followed by a plenary discussion on the problems of academic programs in Turkey. The morning session drew a compelling picture of the multidisciplinary and emergent quality of STS teaching and research in Turkey. One sees that the programs and students are not few, but currently weakly connected via personal relationships rather than as a tightly knit, productive network that is supportive of research. Yet opportunities were similarly visible, towards establishing a uniquely interdisciplinary STS approach that can bring about and support research that can span historical and disciplinary barriers.

The afternoon session was problem-focused and topical, with medical issues emerging as especially relevant, as the Turkish government defined the goal of making the country one of the world’s leading destinations for medical services. Health policy and legal frameworks are also of interest, because these seem to be more accessible and broadly represented in Turkey. As STS is a field coming from a western perspective and primarily an Anglo-American based literature, translation, including cultural translation, is necessary for the Turkish context. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rainer Brömer (Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul University) discussed the differences between Science and Technology Studies and Science, Technology, and Society (Jasanoff, 2016), how to handle translations into Turkish in STS and the importance of building a terminology – also medical terminology – in Turkish. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hakan Ertin’s (Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul University) presentation focused on the resistance of medical staff to collaborate with the STS community, and discussed translation and academic publishing issues, especially in regard to medical ethics. Prof. Yücel Sayman from Istanbul Medipol University made a provocative speech focusing on the relationships between law and life sciences, especially law and medicine. The categorical distinctions between, for example, person and thing, also with regards to biomedical hybrids was a core issue. Şahinol (“Human, Medicine and Society”, Orient-Institut Istanbul) briefly presented her research projects on Human Enhancement, Assisted Reproduction Technology and Enabling Technologies. As she pointed out, challenges and consequences of actual developments in S&T are rarely approached in Turkey. Therefore, there is a need to analyse these developments and interactions between science, technology, medicine and society in particular relation to the historical and cultural contexts. Finally, Zeynep Karagöz (designer, pro-maker) introduced her “Robotel” (Turkish: robot hand) initiative, which works with volunteers in providing 3D-printed rapid-prototype prostheses to young children. Robotel Türkiye is also part of the worldwide network “e-NABLE” and follows its motto: “Enabling the Future – Giving the World a Helping Hand.”

The first day was closed with a discussion session, which provided the participants with topics to discuss in small groups for the second day of the meeting. The outstanding issues that came up during the presentations and the Q&A sessions consisted of the following: institutionalization of STS in Turkey, issues of funding and academic legislation, and the need for catalogues and shared databases (such as news, paper repositories, dictionaries, etc.) as well as dedicated conferences and journals.

With regards to the institutionalization of STS in Turkey, we see STS TURKEY as an “extitution”, that is, “a process of deterritorialization or extitutionalization affecting institutions, contesting power arrangements, and opening up provisory spaces for establishing new connections“ (Farías, 2017: 6). Even though the positive atmosphere of the first meeting, which was focused on discovering collaborative potentials, did not permit discussions of past and current difficulties for science and scientists in Turkey, we find the idea that an interdisciplinary scholarly network can function at an “extitutional” capacity, an exciting promise. On the one hand, there is the question whether STS TURKEY can help scholarly work thrive even under regulatory and political pressures, as well as those from within the rigid disciplinary boundaries that guide scholars’ research and publication strategies. On the other hand, we are faced with the larger question: What does “Doing STS in Turkey” imply politically, socially and culturally?

The second day started with an overview of the first day by Kaygan. Following a heated discussion on the purpose of the kick-off meeting itself, participants gathered in two meeting rooms. One was dedicated to issues of vision and terminology; the other on preparing a road map. The sessions and a concluding session had the following short-term plans established, listed by date of expected accomplishment:

  • Preparing an e-mail group following the meeting to facilitate planning and overall communication;
  • Preparation of a thematic session for the EASST conference in Lancaster, due 1 November;
  • Improvement of the STS TURKEY website to include links to news of events and publications, as well as related university programs and persons;
  • Initiation of reading groups for key STS literature in the following months to help graduate students and interested scholars;
  • Launching an “STS research methods in action” podcast in Turkish in the following months to help graduate students;
  • Publishing an STS glossary in Turkish in the following months to help establish and disseminate a Turkish vocabulary of key terminology;
  • Organizing a second meeting in September-October 2018 in Ankara in Middle East Technical University, possibly including a small conference and interest group meetings;
  • Working towards an STS journal, possibly bilingual, to be discussed further by a smaller group of potential co-editors.

The participants have considered setting up an association. As a result of the discussions, it was agreed that STS TURKEY would continue as a self-organized network (see for other STS networks as in Spain; Estalella et al., 2013), depending on the efforts of its members (currently about 120). The membership in the STS TURKEY network is free and open to anyone interested in understanding the developments in science, technology, or medicine in relation to their social contexts. It was decided that an annually changing core team could organize future annual meetings. It was agreed that in 2018 the annual meeting would take place at the Middle Eastern Technical University, Ankara and be organized by Arsev Umur Aydınoğlu and Harun Kaygan in collaboration with the Melike Şahinol (Orient-Institut Istanbul).

In the meantime, the founding group, namely Şahinol, Aydınoğlu and Kaygan, will be responsible for the coordination of STS TURKEY until an association is set up. They deal with correspondence, handle and distribute organizational tasks, and are responsible for managing the agenda. Activities, updates and further information are provided via newsletter and social network channels.

The Future(s) of Science, Technology and Society in Turkey

The STS TURKEY founding meeting was, in our view, a successful start for establishing a Turkish network among researchers with interests in the study of science, technology and medicine in society. This was the first event of national and international significance with an STS orientation in Turkey. The event itself gave an excellent insight into the current scientific programs and discourses on very different aspects of science, technology and society in Turkey. Every participant had the opportunity to present his or her research and interests related to STS. Finally, the participants have indicated a common vision and road map that is based on their current scholarly interests.

First steps were taken to improve scholarly communication and exchange in the field in Turkey, to facilitate contact amongst scholars, to promote STS in Turkey by organizing conferences, to increase the visibility and diffusion of STS approach in Turkey; to stimulate and support teaching on the subject at all levels, to aid in the development of STS-related skills amongst researchers and PhD candidates, including theoretical knowledge and methodological know-how. With this STS TURKEY foundational meeting, which completes the preexisting Mission Statement of STS TURKEY as specified on the website, the network has now determined its structures. STS TURKEY represents the Turkish STS community at the national and international level. It further promotes reflection on the ever-increasing importance of science and technology in our society by encouraging a dialog between the social and natural sciences and also between scientists and society. As the founding group, we are confident that this meeting marks the beginning of constructive dialogues amongst everyone studying or interested in science, technology and society of Turkey.

Make Space for Place STS & architecture on place-making

In October 2017, the conference ‘Building Care: Intersections of Health and Architecture’ took place at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. The symposium brought together scientists, policy makers, architects and even some patients to talk about how places of care and place-making for care matter. The participants tried to connect and exchange on place as a unit of analysis in thinking about healthcare. Their different ideas about place-making (building-making for architects; people and budget centered for policy makers, and a process of meaning-making for the STS scholars) made for rich interdisciplinary discussions on how to think about and do place.

STS and Place 

The idea to organize a conference explicitly dealing with places and the making of places originated in what the organizers felt was an incomplete conceptualization of place in STS.  Certainly, the underlying importance of place has been there from the beginning, as knowledge production was tied to a particular site: the laboratory. From then on, STS has tended to categorize knowledge, based on the places where it happens (Henke 2000). Tom Gieryn made this relationship explicit when he distinguished between lab and field knowledge (2006) and tied knowledge production to particular truth-spots (2002). There has been STS work done on the importance of particular places as political and techno-cultural assemblages (e.g. Marres 2013 on eco show homes or Farias & Wilkie 2016 on studios), but the relationship between place-making and care has not been explicitly theorized.

How to challenge ourselves in thinking further about place? Looking beyond STS seemed like a good way to start exploring. The conference was conceived as an interdisciplinary, open conversation with policy makers, cultural geographers, historians and, importantly, the experts on place-making: architects.

Fig. 1: Participants in the workshop ‘Place-making’ work in groups on building care places.
Courtesy of the author.

Places: transient and concrete

The morning session was structured around three keynotes and showcased very different approaches to place. Tim Cresswell, a human geographer, broke down place into three ingredients: location, locale and sense of place and, quoting Tuan, referred to place as “a field of care”. He then outlined a theory of place, consisting of the overlapping spheres Materialities, Meanings and Practices, which are intersected by vertical and horizontal axes of temporality. This conceptualization becomes more intricate and is too complex to summarize here, but it is important to note that for Cresswell places are not bounded entities. Rather, places are intersections of numerous forces coming together and linking in nodes of relations that are always articulated in particular temporalities. In this understanding of places, they are emergent centers of meaning, transient and unbound.

The architect AnneMarie Eijkelenboom’s keynote was conceived with a very different concern: how are places of care built and what can this process teach us about place-making in healthcare? Her talk focused on the way built environments affect health and perception. Place was a concrete object in this keynote – it was a building, a garden, a room. Yet, it was also a process of continuous considerations of different materials, physical elements and users. In this talk places were broken down to numerous ingredients and the three overlapping spheres – Materialities, Meanings and Practices – were made visible in the examples of care buildings that AnneMarie discussed.

Designing Death and Dying

The afternoon parallel workshop sessions encouraged participants to think through the different conceptualizations of place, presented in the keynotes. Hands-on cases were the hospice as a place for dying and Maggie’s cancer centers as places of (physical and emotional) comfort. Ken Worpole, who had delivered a keynote in the morning on the history of hospices in the U.K., discussed how sense of place frames the experience of dying. The design and build of hospitals is geared toward cure. The materialities, practices and meanings of hospitals converge to fight for the preservation of life, often resulting in prolonged suffering for both patient and loved ones. CPR procedures have become so thoroughly embedded in western healthcare practices that it is now routine response to most deaths. The particular environment of hospices is, on the other hand, geared toward care: a dignified way of dying. This insight made an impression on the architects in the room, who started thinking about the ingredients necessary to create the intimacy and calm of places for death, but within hospitals. It is a good question to ask about place-making, as well. Does place-making consist of ingredients that can be pinned down? How can a place’s transient quality be captured and scaled up or down? Place-making for care is very different from place-making for cure. Materialities must align with practices and meanings; otherwise places ‘don’t work’.

Place-making is doing [together] 

In one of the afternoon sessions participants were challenged to build places of care in small groups. The groups were purposefully diverse, including architects, doctors, academics, policy makers and patients. Each group was given modeling foam and basic supplies to make a place by focusing on a care process. The idea behind the workshop was to do place, as opposed to talking about place. Each group had differing and sometimes divergent concerns, but these had to be articulated in very practical terms. The question ‘what is a healing environment’ was understood and answered in different ways. In the plenary discussions that followed, it became clear that place-making is about working with multiplicities, which sometimes fit together and sometimes fall apart. The doing of places – the correct lighting, sound isolation, view toward a garden, privacy, the feeling of comfort, the feeling of home – is even more complex in terms of healthcare. Places of care must be safe, for both patients and professionals, yet they must also be cozy. They must be a physical articulation of a balance between care and cure, between patient autonomy and professionals’ ability to perform their tasks. Beyond materiality, places are also “fields of care” and meaning making, but also of politics and policy. Places are made of people, objects and ideas, couched in particular temporalities. They are planned, designed and built, but are in fact contingent and emerging assemblages.

Place Agenda

The conference was an attempt to set a place agenda in healthcare and STS. Borrowing insights from human geography, we know that places are not empty containers that may be filled with the importance of people and practices, but that they are co-produced with people and practices, while producing meaning within particular temporalities. Furthermore, we may say that places are always there, acting as a backdrop, while linking practices and objects in nodes of relations.

What does such an insight offer healthcare studies? A place-centered analysis may be particularly useful for understanding governance arrangements and practices. Oldenhof et al. (2016) argue that the governance of healthcare is being done through particular spatial arrangements, which are often viewed as a neutral backdrop to policy making, but must be taken seriously as governance tools. At the intersection of architecture, design and health, place may play an important role in interrogating popular notions, such as evidence-based design (EBD) and healing environments. In STS, work on places as sites of knowledge production and even political ontology has shown that places have the capacity to unpack social complexities (cf Yaneva 2012). Using place as a productive analytic lens will mean developing the relationships between place and knowledge further and tracing the ways places are productive in multiple ways.

This ‘place agenda’, as the conference participants referred to it, is more of a tentative mapping of the issues and methodologies that may benefit from a place analytical angle, and certainly not a thorough program. Conceiving of places as “fields of care” in multiple may open up spaces for thinking further on governance, politics, ontology and the meaning of care.


The conference Building Care was organized by the Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management (ESHPM) with the support of the Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC).



Farías, I & A. Wilkie (2016) Studio Studies: Operations, Topologies and Displacements (Routledge: New York)

Gieryn, T.F. (2002) ‘Three Truth-spots, Journal of History of the Behavioral Sciences’ 38 (2): 113-132

(2006) City as Truth-spot: Laboratories and Field-Sites in Urban Studies’, Social Studies of Science, 36 (1): 5-38

Henke, C.R. (2000) ‘Making a place for science: The field trial’, Social Studies of Science, 30 (4): 483–511

Marres, N. (2013) ‘Why political ontology must be experimentalized: On eco-show homes as devices of participation’, Social Studies of Science, 43(3): 417-443

Oldenhof, L., Postma, J. & R. Bal (2015) ‘Re-placing Care: governing healthcare through spatial arrangements’ in Ferlie, E., Montgomery K. & Reff Pederson A. (eds), Oxford Handbook of Healthcare Management (Ofxord: Oxford University Press)

Yaneva, A. (2012) Mapping Controversies in Architecture. (London: Ashgate)



Science as Culture

Our culture is a scientific one, defining what is natural and what is rational. Its values can be seen in what are sought out as facts and made as artefacts, what are designed as processes and products, and what are forged as weapons and filmed as wonders.  In our daily experience, power is exercised through expertise, e.g. in science, technology and medicine. Science as Culture explores how all these shape the values which contend for influence over the wider society. The journal encompasses people’s experiences at various sites – the workplace, the cinema, the computer, the hospital, the home and the academy. The articles are readable, attractive, lively, often humorous, and always jargon-free. SaC aims to be read at leisure, and to be a pleasure.

So reads the mission statement of the journal since its foundation in 1987. The focus has been publicly important topics, especially ongoing controversies or potential ones. Such topics become the rationale for engaging with concepts from STS, cultural studies and wider political debates. These linkages have made the journal attractive to a broad readership across and beyond academic disciplines.

From Critical Theory to cultural studies and STS

SaC was the successor of the Radical Science Journal (RSJ), which had emerged from 1970s critical science movements. This flourished under the broad umbrella of the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, which published the magazine Science for People. As its activists argued, technical fixes were defining societal problems in ways that strengthen elite agendas for class exploitation, gender oppression and environmental degradation, while technicising and thus depoliticising such issues (Bell, 2013; Werskey, 2007; see http://www.bssrs.org/home).

Contributing theoretical perspectives to those strategic debates, the Radical Science Journal drew on concepts from counter-cultural, feminist, environmentalist and alternative health movements. From Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School tradition, the key concepts reification and fetishism were extended to technique and expert knowledge. As already noted by historians, basic scientific concepts have always depended on old or new metaphors; RSJ analysed how these naturalise specific values as properties of facts or artefacts. The critique drew on Marx’ insight, ‘This fetishism of commodities has its origin in the peculiar social character of the labour that produced them…’ By analogy, scientific facts likewise were shaped by social relations of scientific labour yet were fetishized as products of Nature (Young, 1977).

Members participated in the Labour Process Group within the Conference of Socialist Economists, informing analyses of science and technology as a labour process. ‘Capitalist science’ resulted from a labour process constituted by capitalist social relations, e.g. a division of labour, professional hierarchy, proprietary knowledge, etc. (RSJ Collective, 1981; Werskey, 2007: 439). Together these concepts highlighted the implicit politics in elite agendas, while linking diverse cases around a common framework. Labour process perspectives were further elaborated in a two-volume collection (Levidow and Young, 1981 and 1985).

The Editorial Collective had close links with social movements and political campaigns, which generated topics for RSJ’s monthly series of public events.  Members included academics (in the Sociology, Philosophy and History of Science), medics, science teachers, psychotherapists and various political activists. The Radical Publications Group provided a wider platform for regular discussions amongst critical journals on science, statistics, history, philosophy, social work, political economy, etc.

RSJ Editorial Collective members also attended an annual international meeting of critical journals. These included Naturkampen (Denmark), Cahiers Galilee (Belgium), Science for the People (US), Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parshad (India) and Contrainformazione (Italy), as well as mass-circulation magazines such as Wechselwirkung (Germany) and Sapere (Italy).  These annual discussions helped to sharpen critical perspectives on issues such as chemical disasters, automation, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, techno-torture, new reproductive technologies, etc. (Levidow and Vitale, 1981).

RSJ drew on perspectives from early STS, cultural studies and feminist studies. For example, a 1985 special issue analysed ICTs as Compulsive Technology, a title which has even greater relevance today (guest editors: Tony Solomonides and Les Levidow). A 1987 special issue explored how power is gendered and mediated through notions of science, technology and nature (Gender and Expertise, guest editor: Maureen McNeil). Meanwhile cultural studies were analysing how technoscientific developments set agendas for expert authority, social identity and social order. These interdisciplinary synergies provided a basis for the successor journal.

New journal: Science as Culture

For most of the UK’s critical journals in the 1970s, an Editorial Collective handled the entire production process including subscriptions and bookshop distribution. From the early 1980s onwards, however, Thatcher’s neoliberal Britain was closing down the spaces for such political alternatives and work modes. Critical journals depended heavily on substantial voluntary labour, which was becoming more difficult to sustain. For their public exposure and sales, they depended on bookshop distribution, but fewer journals were being stocked. For these reasons, most of the UK’s critical journals turned to commercial publishers, even whilst recognising that these might limit readers’ access through copyright restrictions and commercial pricing.

Given those general constraints on critical journals, alongside new opportunities for interdisciplinary exchanges, the Editors decided to replace RSJ with a new journal, Science as Culture (henceforth SaC). In the mid-1980s the Editors had founded a new press, Free Association Books, which now became the SaC publisher, but depended on at least five journal distributors across several continents.  These arrangements were soon simplified by switching publisher to Guilford Publications (NY) and then Carfax (UK), which in turn was acquired by Taylor & Francis; its STS journals list helped to raise the profile of SaC.

Why science as culture? As noted in the first issue, our everyday mundane and aesthetic experiences are already mediated by technologies, becoming ‘so much part of household furniture that we no longer experience them as technologies’. Although technological applications were sometimes debated as issues of values and power, their design priorities rarely underwent such scrutiny. And scientific knowledge remained largely invulnerable to critique, especially in the wake of science popularisation.

The mass media eagerly cater for a growing market which looks to scientific knowledge for enlightenment, entertainment, diversion…. Thus we have an abundance of science-as-culture, but it is primarily for consumption, much less often for debate about choices of values and priorities. The alternative to science-as-consumption is cultural critique (SaC Editors, 1987).

Hence SaC has analysed ‘the production of meanings in scientific culture and in the broader culture as influenced by science’ (ibid).

Although now positioning itself as an academic journal, SaC articles always went beyond academic disciplines and issues. Articles analysed power relations, labour processes, cultural meanings, their naturalisation and societal conflicts in diverse forms and sites. SaC presented itself as an STS journal critically analysing technoscience in its many manifestations.  Open to diverse disciplinary perspectives, SaC became a crucible for the interdisciplinary exchanges characterising STS.

Going further, the journal has had a transdisciplinary orientation to societal conflicts:

Transdisciplinarity explicitly orients its knowledge production not only around disciplinary problem-definitions but also around other definitions, derived from pressures, ‘applications’ or from societal stakeholders…. [Yet] different stakeholders may have different views about what the problem at stake actually is… (Maasen et al, 2006: 396).

Starting from such societal conflicts, SaC articles have analysed agendas for reordering society, their stabilisation through expertise, and their destabilisation through resistances including counter-expertise (e.g. Fortun and Cherkasky, 1998). This transdisciplinary perspective has many resonances with critical STS (e.g. Jasanoff, 2004; Jasanoff and Kim, 2015; Kleinman and Moore, 2014; Pellizzoni and Ylönen, 2012).

Beyond research articles and book reviews, SaC has analysed tensions within STS. According to one critic, STS epistemological debates about truth or objectivity obscure contests over power and alternative futures (Hamlin, 2007).  Johan Söderberg (2017) contrasts a ‘political economy’ tendency with a post-structuralist one, while tracing their differences to legacies from 1970s Marxism. SaC welcomes more articles on such tensions, especially why these matter for practice.

For the journal’s remit on the wider culture, a recurrent focus has been popular media and exhibitions, particularly how they celebrate technoscience. A 1995 special issue analysed Science on Display (guest editor: Sharon Macdonald). Other essays on exhibitions include Angela Last (2017), ‘Making nature, making energy, making humans’. More such contributions are sought.

SaC special issues and Forums

Special issues have generated and juxtaposed diverse perspectives on a topic. Through early discussion with the SaC Editors, the guest editors have sharpened the conceptual approach, drawing on more critical perspectives from STS and beyond. Reviewers of the papers include fellow contributors, whose own papers have benefited as a result.

Amongst the most popular special issues has been ‘Energy Transitions’ (guest Editors: Clark Miller, Alastair Iles & Christopher Jones, 2013). As the guest Introduction argues, ‘the key choices involved in energy transitions are not so much between different fuels but between different forms of social, economic, and political arrangements built in combination with new energy technologies’. Across the various articles, socio-technological systems perspectives linked three questions:

“What does it mean that energy systems are at once relatively hidden from public scrutiny and yet deeply structuring of social and economic arrangements that can stifle alternatives without our realizing it? Who knows about energy systems, what and how do they know, and whose knowledge counts in governing and reshaping energy futures? And what does it mean to implement a just energy transformation that will neither perpetuate the existing negative impacts of energy production and use nor create new ones?” (Miller et al., 2013).

‘Agro-Food Crises’ (guest Editors: Anne Loeber, Maarten Hajer and Les Levidow, 2011) examined the late 20th century agro-food disasters that were experienced as societal crises. Key actors made sense of these crises through specific risk framings that linked social and natural (dis)order in new ways. Contributors took a discourse-analytic approach to those societal conflicts and incipient agendas for institutional change.

Energy Transitions (2013)
Agro-Food Crises (2011)


To sharpen debate, SaC Editors have introduced topical Special Forums. These bring together articles of under 6k words, many written by non-academics, with a fast review procedure. This format provides a flexible means to scope new topics, to gather multiple critical approaches and to highlight their political relevance.

Public unease or antagonism towards some technoscientific developments has been a recurrent topic in SaC. Readers showed great interest in an article by Ian Welsh and Brian Wynne (2013), ‘Science, scientism and imaginaries of publics in the UK: passive objects, incipient threats’. They argued that elite strategy has shifted away from incorporating public unease, instead treating it as politicised threats requiring state control or even suppression. This article became the focus for a Forum on ‘Publics as Threats to Technoscientific Progress’ (2015).

Forums have taken up several other topics. ‘Embedding Social Sciences?’ (2014) critically analysed policy roles of the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). This started from an article questioning whether SSH were being appropriated for dominant policy agendas: ‘the call for “embedding SSH”, within lines of reasoning already predefined by sciences and engineering, translates a hierarchy and potentially limits SSH in developing its full potential’ (Felt, 2014). The Forum on ‘Contested Technology from the 1970s to the Present’ (2016) reflected on the 1970-80s radical science movements, drawing lessons for today’s analogous agendas. ‘Techno-Economic Assumptions’ (2017) analysed economic assumptions that pervade expert judgements about knowledge, technology design and government policy.

Future special issues will include the following topics: ‘Alter-Standardising Clinical Trial’s (guest editor: Achim Rosemann), ‘Techno-security Cultures’ (guest editors: Jutta Weber and Katrin M. Kämpf), ‘Urban Techno‐Politics’ (guest editors: Thaddeus Miller and Rider Foley) and ‘Justice and Counter-Expertise’ (guest editors: Sharlissa Moore and Logan Williams). This builds on a 1988 special issue, ‘Strategising Counter-Expertise’ (guest editors: Kim Fortun & Todd Cherkasky).

Trans-Atlantic cover picture for 2016 SaC Forum, ‘Contested Technology from the 1970s to the Present’

Future opportunities 

SaC is widely available through e-journal systems. Most publishers have shifted their business models from individual subscriptions to thematic ‘bundles’, e.g. STS and cultural studies, several of which include SaC. Its downloads have been rising every year; some papers of broad interest are available as free downloads.

The journal has two levels of organisation. Everyday operations have been run by four people: the Editor Les Levidow, two Associate Editors in Kean Birch and Uli Beisel, and Book Reviews Editor Martin Savransky (previously David Tyfield). Advisory Panel members play important roles in advising on strategy, publicising the journal and reviewing submissions. Advisory Panel meetings are held regularly at EASST and 4S conferences.

Both the special issue and Forum formats offer opportunities for early-career academics to serve as guest editors. They gain experience in editorial judgements and responsibility, working with the SaC Editors. Several guest editors have joined the SaC Advisory Panel.

The journal invites submissions and proposals for special issues or Forums. These usually begin with a set of potential papers from an academic event, as the basis to formulate an open call for contributions. Proposals should be sent to the Editor, L.Levidow@open.ac.uk



SaC articles are searchable at http://www.tandfonline.com/csac; see also the page listing special issues, http://explore.tandfonline.com/page/est/csac

Bell, A. 2013. Beneath the white coat: the radical science movement, The Guardian, 18 July, https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2013/jul/18/beneath-white-coat-radical-science-movement

Felt, U. 2014. Within, across and beyond: reconsidering the role of Social Sciences and Humanities in Europe, Science as Culture 23(3): 384-396, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505431.2014.926146

Fortun, K. and Cherkasky, T. 1998. Guest Introduction: Strategising counter-expertise, Science as Culture 7(2): 141-144.

Hamlin, C. 2007. STS: Where the Marxist critique of capitalist science goes to die?, Science as Culture 16(4): 467-474.

Jasanoff, S. (ed). 2004. States of Knowledge: The Co-Production of Science and Social Order. London/NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis.

Jasanoff, S. and Kim, S.-H. (eds). 2015. Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kleinman, D. and Moore, K.(eds) 2014. Routledge Handbook of Science, Technology and Society, https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Handbook-of-Science-Technology-and-Society/Kleinman-Moore/p/book/9780415531528

Last, A. 2017. Making nature, making energy, making humans: two exhibitions at the Wellcome Trust, Science as Culture, http://tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09505431.2017.1339684

Levidow, L. and Vitale, B. 1981. International meeting of radical science journals, Radical Science Journal 11: 101-110.

Levidow, L. and Young, R.M., eds (1981) Science, Technology and the Labour Process, vol.1, London: CSE Books.

Levidow, L. and Young, R.M., eds (1985) Science, Technology and the Labour Process, vol.2, London: Free Association Books.

Maasen, S., Lengwiler, M., Guggenheim, M. 2006. Practices of transdisciplinary research: close(r) encounters of science and society, Science and Public Policy 33(6): 394–398, https://doi.org/10.3152/147154306781778830

Miller, C., et al. 2013. The social dimensions of energy transitions, Science as Culture 22(2): 135-148, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505431.2013.786989

Pellizzoni, L. and Ylönen, M. 2012. Neoliberalism and Technoscience: Critical Assessments. Farnham/Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

RSJ Collective. 1981. Science, technology, medicine and the socialist movement, Radical Science Journal 11: 3-70, http://human-nature.com/rmyoung/papers/pap100.html

SaC Editors. 1987. Editorial, Science as Culture 1(1): 7-11, http://tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09505438709526176

Söderberg, J. 2017. The genealogy of empirical post-structuralist STS, retold in two conjunctures: the legacy of Hegel and Althusser, Science as Culture 26(2): 185-208, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505431.2016.1223029

Werskey, G. 2007. The Marxist critique of capitalist science: a history in three movements, Science as Culture 16(4): 397-461, http://tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09505430701706749

Young, R.M. 1977. Science is social relations, Radical Science Journal 5: 65-129,


Introducing students of STS into engaging with differences generatively

‘The very idea of [disciplining students to know and do] cultural and social studies of sciences and technologies is surprising, and the use of plurals rather than singulars underscores the strangeness’, I want to rephrase the first sentence of Sharon Traweek’s (1993: 3) early ‘Introduction to Cultural and Social Studies of Sciences and Technologies’. I wonder what is happening to the tension between plurals, singulars and, I might add, multiple Science and Technology Studies as it is coming of age? STS becomes increasingly institutionalized, being taught in STS programs and STS textbooks are filling the market. It is exciting to participate in this thriving. Yet, in this process of institutionalization lurks a possibility that the tensions between plurals, singulars and multiples of STS are smoothed until they lose their generative character. This editorial aims to contribute to a discussion on how to introduce students to differences between discourses, concepts and methodologies in STS.

Recently, I gave a course of ‘Introduction to STS’ at a university other to the one I am employed; at an institute where I know how my colleagues are knowing and doing STS. As I tailored the syllabus to the needs of these students and the requirements of that university, I noticed we would read and discuss methodologies and stories of STS different to the one I am usually working with, and I assumed some of my colleagues might give different introductions in STS classes. I imagined the members of my small reading group in Berlin introducing students to STS. How would they introduce students to STS?

We were all disciplined in academic knowledge traditions other than STS and we work with and teach a variety of methods in different fields, cities and even countries. We all identify as STS researchers and although we all participate in performing STS, we know and do it all differently: What we know and do, how we know and do it, and what emerges in our specific daily routines is likely to be shaped by historical contingent governmental regulations as well as institutional possibilities and limitations. We contribute to bringing different phenomena into existence and to shaping them by talking, writing and visualising them in different ways, questioning, agreeing or opposing each other, by adapting and simplifying in various ways. We engage in specific ways with students and superiors, with specific curricula and specific funding. Knowing and doing STS differs in our daily routines, in how and what we know and do our work in a STS community. Most notably when discussing recent STS literature in our little group, we mobilize and enact STS discourses and concepts that often differ profoundly. We have heated discussions in this reading group and we enjoy these discussions emerging in our different knowings and doings of STS. We value the frictions as beneficial for our conceptualizing. I believe it is worthwhile to take these differences into account when introducing students to STS and to ask how students need to engage with these differences to contribute to STS in a meaningful way.

While STS is increasingly taught as a discipline, we need to take care of how these differences are taught. Helen Verran portrayed a story of different methodologies in her recent review of Pickering’s ‘Science as Practice and Culture’ (Verran 2017). When working with graduate students in Holland, Denmark and California, she noticed a recurring story of what STS is nowadays and how different methodologies came into being in STS epistemics. In this story ‘objectivism, social constructivism and ontological constitutionalism all now thrive as variant STS epistemic practices in their own niches’ (Verran 2017: 78). Verran, then, wonders what is silenced in this story.

Interestingly, this story is at the same time separating as it is homogenizing. Although differences between methodologies are pointed out in this story, the friction gets lost. It generates a tolerance that acts as a truce. Students are invited to differentiate between methodologies and to sort new work into these already existing ones. This story invites an othering and closes debates, instead of nurturing them. My hope is that we do not end our stories of differences in STS here, but keep telling these stories as yet incomplete. May students of STS be invited, and maybe introduced, to explore these differences, to challenge them and to play with them. When we are introducing students to engage with these differences in such a way, they may find ways to use differences in STS as generative differences. They would become skilled to shape STS in unique ways. I do hope that students of STS can enjoy these intense discussions that I find so particularly beneficial in my little reading group.

Constructive Technology Assessment – STS for and with Technology Actors

Over the years, STS has more and more moved from a predominant analytical gaze to engaging with the very fields and processes it is concerned with. At the University of Twente, STePS researchers have early on embarked on this road, with a key strand having evolved under the heading of Constructive Technology Assessment (CTA). While the core ideas were developed 30 years ago (Schot and Rip, 1997; Rip et al., 1995; Rip et al., 1987), the practical approaches and specific aims have clearly developed over time and – we expect – will continue to do so in the future. In what follows, we want to briefly explain the key characteristics of the approach, report on some recent projects and discuss our current attempts to move CTA from the field level to the work floor of researchers and technology actors, and close with an outlook on further directions for developing the approach.

Core Characteristics and Socio-Technical Scenarios

Constructive Technology Assessment emerged on the one hand from a concern to turn insights from STS actionable in the development of technologies. On the other hand, it builds on the field of technology assessment – as the term indicates – and aims to mobilize insights on co-evolutionary dynamics of science, technology and society for anticipating and assessing technologies, rather than being predominantly concerned with assessing societal impacts of a quasi-given technology. In addition, it shifts the focus from policy advice to (soft) intervention in the ongoing construction and societal embedding of technologies (see Rip and Robinson, 2013 for an analytical overview). Thus, CTA approaches involve stakeholders and typically include a step of analysis of ongoing processes and dynamics in a specific technology field, which draw on varying conceptual perspectives from science, technology and often also innovation studies. There have been extensive studies of social experiments with electric cars in the 1990s (Hoogma, 2000), some limited studies of micro-optics, and concerted work on nanotechnology (Rip and van Lente, 2013). Which conceptual lenses are used and which (scope of) processes are considered – innovation dynamics, use practices, governance interventions, developments within a field or its context, whether a whole technology field is addressed or a specific artefact – differs from project to project. This analytical step is often also an important base for studying the socio-technical dynamics in their own right.

Forms of intervention can differ, and here is not the space to expand on the full breadth. One form which has proven both doable and appreciated in various cases, includes the development of socio-technical scenarios as an input to stakeholder workshops. These scenarios typically start with the analysis of current and recent developments and then expand into the future, exploring different directions how the observed dynamics may further unfold, but also, how strategic and governance actions may play out and interrelate, or how different actor groups may react -as a means to stimulate reflexive consideration of broader developments and their interrelations than actors in the field would consider in their day-to-day concerns (Parandian and Rip, 2013; Rip and Te Kulve, 2008). In the CTA workshops we then aim to convene stakeholders from different backgrounds, who often enough turn out not to be familiar with many of the perspectives and considerations of other parties (so the workshops are occasions to let them probe each other’s worlds), and discussion is geared towards issues at stake and dilemmas that emerged from the preceding analysis.

By way of example, a project on nanotechnology-based sensor technologies in food and water explored directions for application and user requirements, but also the past and possible future processes which led and may lead to the emergence and further specification of user needs. It clearly turned out that user needs were not ‘given’, but rather that ‘demand articulation’ was an ongoing process, depending not only on dynamics on the use side, but rather on processes across the sector (Te Kulve and Konrad, 2017b; Te Kulve and Konrad, 2017a). More specifically, a stronger early-stage involvement of regulators was identified as a possible way forward.

This study approached the subject at the cross-section of a technology field with sectoral dynamics, and resided largely in the world of businesses. Other CTA studies were more concerned with the different perceptions and assessments of roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and in particular patients of new medical devices that in different shades provide opportunities and requirements for patients for increased self-management. These examples also focused in more detail on (the design of) specific products, rather than a whole field (Maathuis, 2014; Krabbenborg, 2013).


Socio-technical scenario


Mainstreaming CTA to the work floor

The CTA approach in the forms described so far, poses quite some requirements, in terms of research time, STS expertise, workshop preparations, and engagement of participants. Accordingly, many of the projects have been part of PhD or postdoc projects. In the context of recent ambitions to broaden and enhance the consideration of the societal role of science and technology as a regular element of research and innovation processes, largely emerging related to initiatives under the heading of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), a new challenge arises.

The general rationale of CTA strongly resonates with the ambition of RRI (Fisher and Rip, 2013). However, for integrating CTA elements across a wide range of research and innovation projects and in a way that it closely involves the technical researchers themselves creates new and challenging frame conditions. This has been exactly the situation we faced in the Dutch nanotechnology research programme NanoNextNL where the ambition has been, clearly stated by the chairman of the programme, to have all researchers involved consider the societal impact of their research themselves (Walhout and Konrad, 2015; Volkskrant, 2011). While the mentioned CTA project for sensor technologies was part of the NanoNextNL programme, the same approach could not be applied to all (hundreds of) projects in the programme. As a way forward, the team of researchers in NanoNextNL who were conducting risk analysis and technology assessment projects set up a course targeted at the PhD students in the programme, which aimed at making the researchers aware of relevant potential risks, societal and ethical implications and prerequisites of their work. Ideally, PhD students were then supposed to dedicate a part, e.g. a chapter, of their thesis to further addressing the identified topics an early attempt to do so is (den Boer et al., 2009). Making in particular the latter happen and providing for the necessary supervision, was surely a challenge, as this had not been provided for in the original set-up of the programme and not all main supervisors were supportive of this type of activities; hence, in practice it wasn’t followed as widely as indicated by the initial ambition. Still, several of the PhD students did so, conducting for instance CTA-inspired workshops, in which they explored with different types of actors potential applications of their research work and the prerequisites and implications thereof (Schulze Greiving et al., 2016). One of them decided to follow this route further, and embarked on a postdoc project in the STePS department. The main aim of this project was to further develop a ‘CTA toolbox’ that builds on analysis and methods derived from STS and innovation studies, but presents and tailors these in a format which is easier accessible, understandable and doable for technical researchers (Schulze Greiving and Konrad, 2017).1 In the meantime we have applied these ‘tools’ in diverse contexts, from bachelor students to senior researchers exploring future research directions.


Courtesy of Gijs van Ouwerkerk


This move towards a ‘mainstreaming’ of CTA-type activities to the work floor of researchers is much in line with the overarching CTA rationale, but does not come without tensions, as supposedly all of the many colleagues involved in similar endeavors will know all too well. On the one hand, we have recently seen quite some openings for these activities; the activities in NanoNextNL were one of them, another is the recent educational policy of the University of Twente to include a substantial element of ‘reflective education’ throughout all the (largely technical) bachelor programmes. Similar approaches in different shades have been adopted by other technical universities, and the number of research and innovation projects which require a broadening up is expected to increase. At the same time, this development is also contested, particularly at the work- and lab-floor, and does not always go along easily with a number of the practical and disciplinary structures of technical researchers. Thus, tailoring our approaches to the real-world constrains what these openings can do in practice, and requires a constant balancing and experimenting to what extent and in which ways we can and want to adjust concepts and methods to achieve the goal of soft intervention for broadening technology development in a meaningful way.


The situations and forms described are not meant to offer a comprehensive overview of the different conditions CTA may need to be again and again tailored to. Further challenges to situate the approach of CTA arise when CTA is to be conducted productively in different global settings, taking due account of local political and discursive cultures, and possibly different sociotechnical dynamics, an issue which becomes more and more salient also for us as STePS researchers, as we are increasingly working in globally dispersed and connected projects.

Infrastructural choreography of STS scholars

Living infrastructures in cities and beyond

The notion of infrastructure became popular in STS literature in the 2000s and in the 2010s (fig. 1). Its popularity might be explained by its relevance to many urban and non-urban systems and networks, at the same it usually demands focusing on particular empirical case-study.


Fig. 1. Frequency of keyword “infrastructure” in comparison with other keywords in STS literature. Source: Own elaboration based on Scopus Database and Science Scape tools by the Medialab, Science Po. URL: http://tools.medialab.sciences-po.fr/sciencescape/


Infrastructure addresses big urban and technological projects like power networks (T. Hughes), as well as situational interactions between people and things (S. Star, G. Bowker). Infrastructure simultaneously covers the fields of urban studies showing the importance of the processes of privatization, neoliberalization and hybridization of city spaces (S. Graham, M. Gandy, S. Collier), informational technology studies addressing issues of scale, connectedness, categorization, and accessibility of information (G. Bowker, S. Star), mobility studies that tackle with the questions of flows, frictions, connectivity, and also the everyday experience of spaces and places, and many others (J. Urry, P. Adey). This kind of multiplicity of the notion of infrastructure makes it fresh and heuristically useful (?) for thinking the contemporary city and beyond.

Dancing with the Western infrastructural ideal

With all these thoughts in mind, a group of scholars from Volgograd and Saint Petersburg (Russia) with the support of Volgograd State University and European University at Saint Petersburg organized the international conference “Living Infrastructures: Beyond Global North and Global South”, which took place in Volgograd on April 27-28, 2017. The topic itself was devised during a previous workshop in Volgograd when several scholars questioned the position of urban infrastructures in Russia with regard to the Western infrastructural ideal. Based on the ideas of scholars from the so-called “second wave” of infrastructural studies, who criticized the normativity and the Western-centrism of infrastructure concepts in the articles and books of the STS cannon, we sought to articulate the specificity of Russian cases, as well as to emphasize the diversity of infrastructures all over the world. The idea was not only to de-colonize infrastructural studies extending them to Russian cases, but to show the delicate relations between people and the everyday things they are engaged with. “Living infrastructures” became thus a metaphor to remind scholars that infrastructures are dynamic and surprising, simultaneously resilient and fragile. They are ecologically mutually dependent on other life forms. They are not invulnerable or “eternal beings”, as social scientists of Durkheimian denomination thought of societies. They confront risks to their continued existence and have sometimes their own life.

The logo of the conference – the “dancing bridge” in Volgograd – might be seen as the symbol of the living infrastructures idea (fig. 2).


Fig. 2. The Volgograd “dancing bridge”. Source: the design logo created by the Volgograd team for the conference.


Volgograd’s “dancing bridge” was under construction for 13 years and it connects the central part of the city, very busy and intense one, with the natural outskirts of Volgograd floodplain, establishing a fast connection between different parts of regions at the cost of harming the subtle ecology of the floodplain. Notably, after the construction, the bridge began to “dance”, that is, oscillate because of wind conditions that created a lot of authority concerns and people’s rumors (look at the bridge here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEQrt_w7gN4). It became an important tourist attraction of Volgograd, although some days after the dancing, with the help of Swiss and German engineers (sic!), the oscillation was stabilized. In this way, the common infrastructural urban object became important part of Volgograd hybrid ecology, its urban narratives and global technological connections.

Organizing and blogging!

Preparing the conference, the organizers decided to “build” a temporary digital infrastructure to liven up an interest in the forthcoming event. The idea was to create a special blog on the WordPress platform, where different topics around the infrastructures could be exposed (https://livinginfrastructures.wordpress.com/about/). The team posted little essays on bicycle mobility, kids smart technological infrastructure, innovation infrastructure, anthropology of infrastructures, the influence of mega-events on urban infrastructures, childbirth infrastructures in Russian central and peripheral regions, and also on the topic of how the urban infrastructure elicit affects and emotions from the citizens. All these essays were disseminated in social media and helped to attract the attention of different scholars and activists to the conference issues. The blog platform attracted hundreds of website visitors.

The infrastucturation of the world

The conference gathered scholars across Russia, India, Bulgaria, Germany, Sweden, and the UK. It was the first STS-oriented conference focused on the topic of infrastructure in Russia ever. The conference was opened with a keynote on “Infrastructuring Mobile Utopia: Global Challenges, Global Responses” by Prof. Monika Büscher (Centre for Mobilities Research,​ Lancaster University) (fig 3). She analyzed cases of material infrastructural breakdown and digital humanitarianism when people converged online to restructure absent governmental. The presentation raised a range of important issues of mobile utopia and dystopia in equipped smart cities, digital and immaterial infrastructure, reflexive resilience in the context of sharing data and the precarity, and creativity in the process of infrastructurization. Three modes were suggested to develop the argument of reflexive resilience – archaeology, ontology, and architecture, in order to contribute to the discussion on relational infrastructure and posthuman relational ethics.


Fig. 3. Monica Büscher gives a lecture on the mobile infrastructures that are enacted in the time of societal crises. Source: Lyoubov Torlopova.


Ivan Tchalakov (PAST-Center, Tomsk State University / University of Plovdiv) opened the second day with his talk “Ships, Channels, Gravity Wells and Valleys: Towards Deep Space Infrastructures” (fig. 4). The examples of SpaceX and ULA were redefined through Latour’s restored symmetry as transportation for human and nature and as a conquest of the resources to become an infrastructure for the space-scape and interplanetary network. Tchalakov also discussed new private projects that might advance space industry further.


Fig. 4. Ivan Tchalakov on the division between the governmental and private space programs.


Both keynote lectures revolved around the questions of new and only anticipated infrastructures that should be delicately and intensely investigated by the STS scholars, using conceptual resources from philosophy, activism and social studies of science and technology.

The main topic of the conference was devoted to mobility infrastructures. The session “Mobilities Infrastructures: Speeding Up the Slow, Slowing Down the Fast” gathered scholars interested in changing practices of urban dwellers, the Russian subdued forms of mobility called “marshrutki”, the social infrastructures of public transport, the ambiguity of bicycle infrastructure, bike sharing systems in Russian big cities, and children “smart” mobilities. The multiplicity of the topics challenged participants to ponder upon the possibility to assemble the cases under the head of the mobility infrastructure notion. At the same time, it became very apparent that mobility is an important part of any infrastructures since it makes informational or material units pass through. How to create the infrastructure in such a way to make easier and comfortable to transit units, and at the same time to make people who use this infrastructure to feel comfortable and not alienated – it is a very important question.

The session “Urban infrastructure” drew attention to the relations between city and infrastructure. Participants demonstrated their interest in the influence of politics and policy on urban infrastructures, the access to the latter and the regime of uses. Many Russian cities represent cases of infrastructures with the centralized logic of a planned economy. Despite contemporary neoliberalism scholars’ emphasis on privatized and splintering infrastructures, we may find a lot of examples of path-dependent urban infrastructure, which follows the old and very obsolete logic of planned economy. It opens up the space for thinking about the very principles of urban infrastructure development.

In the session devoted to digital infrastructures, speakers problematized the relations between online and offline: how the space-based digital games connect to the body, perception, and the social order of city; how visualization and simulations of existing and anticipated infrastructures make work with the city space, and help to construct more comfortable and participative infrastructure. The question of representativity also penetrated the issue of media infrastructure in the game development for gamers’ imagination and anticipation of the cultural product itself.

The “Infrastructured Bodies” session tackled with the biopolitical question of a seamless connection between sociomaterial infrastructures and bodies. The speakers demonstrated how infrastructure matters when certain policies and extensive spatiality affect professional work, patients’ access and abilities and how particular enactments of diseases involve people through mobile applications and handmade infrastructures, where technology becomes secondary to knowledge exchange and accumulation.

Finally, the “Infrastructure Theories” session grasped all the previous insights into the concepts of infrastructure with all their range. Forgotten sociological classic Ferdinand Tönnies was considered to be a pioneer in logics of translation (connection of wills) and assemblage (collectives), dealing with a paradox of things as objects in relations of possession and capital. Bruno Latour’s material semiotics with the focus on operations of shifting (shifting-in, -out, -up, down) was considered an important resource for thinking of infrastructures as a type of relation and not as a set of things.

Make them live!

Monika Buscher from the Lancaster University told about how in situations of risk or accidents people start to help each other and make their own living infrastructure that are sometimes more effective than already created and established state and municipal infrastructures. The notion of living infrastructure could be also told about the conference participation as a special infrastructure when people all around the world gathered to talk about the different cases of infrastructure and by this created temporal emotional and narrative infrastructure to make infrastructure be living longer in the minds of scholars. Geoffrey Bowker and Stephen C. Slota in the brand new “Handbook of Science and Technology Studies” named their chapter “How infrastructure matter?”. We believe that the conference “Living Infrastructures Beyond Global North and Global South” in Volgograd advanced further another vital question: “How to think and talk on infrastructures as a living matter?”.


Fig. 5. The participants of the conference, who have enacted the infrastructures in the Global North and South for the two days of the conference.

O EASST Review lovers, where art thou? On STS as extitution

Let me begin with an announcement: in the next few weeks we will publish the yearbook Doing STS in Europe: EASST Review 2016 – a 250 pages book compiling all the contributions to the EASST Review during last year, including the profiles of four STS groups located in Europe and four STS publications platforms, as well as dozens of reports on STS events and EASST-funded activities, including two special features: one on Bruno Latour’s exhibition RESET Modernity featuring an interview with the author and three commentaries; the second one on the EASST/4S conference in Barcelona last year featuring over to 20 reports on specific sessions and panels. A digital copy of the yearbook will be downloadable for free from our website. And you will be able to buy print copies (yes, nothing like physical objects you can hold in your hands) from conventional online retailers.

Good news, right?

But the project has also confronted us with tricky questions. First we thought: well, we would then need to give authors a free print copy, just like the one you get from any other publisher. This would also put some print copies in circulation among our core audience (you!), who might then in future buy print copies of all yearbooks we publish, and start their own collection. But discussing the idea further a different proposal came up: we could send free print copies to STS centers and departments. The issue is still undecided and we do not know yet how we are going to handle this, but the latter suggestion made me ask myself two questions: first, have we seen in the last years an institutionalization of STS at universities and research centers? And, second, should the goal of our professional organization be to just reinforce that process of institutionalization?

Thirty years ago, there were only a few STS centers around and practically the whole field was based in sociology, philosophy, anthropology, and political science departments. But has this really changed? We had a look at the last ten issues of the EASST Review and the result is perhaps exactly what one would wish for a successful interdisciplinary field: an exact tie of 62 authors based or affiliated to STS departments or centers and 62 authors, for whom in their bios we mostly found other institutional affiliations. By the way, we also have 57 female authors and 67 male authors, which is not so bad either. But even if we included Russia and Israel as ‘non-European’, the percentage of authors based in non-European institutions is just 12,9%, which should maybe remind us all of the regional character of our association and its main outlet.

But coming back to the question of institutionalization of STS, as reflected in author affiliations in the last ten issues of the EASST Review, we need to be careful with the prima facie positive results presented above. To begin with, we need to take into account, that in mid-2015 we introduced the section STS Multiple, where we invite STS groups and centers to present themselves. The seven contributions included in our database average 4 authors each. So, we have about 28 authors that appear listed as STS-based authors, whom we explicitly invited and encouraged to publish here. This doesn’t speak against the strong presence of STS-based colleagues, for the important question is how are we collectively performing the field of STS, not what the field is in itself. But it introduces a nuance in the result.

A second consideration is how our list reflects different levels of participation and institutionalization of STS across European countries. Most authors are based in Western European countries: UK (30 authors), Germany (21), Denmark (12), Austria (10) and Italy (9). For these five countries, 58% of authors are affiliated to STS departments. The percentage appears as remarkably high, when compared with the 42 authors from the other 19 countries, of whom only 33% is based in an STS department. Taking all this into consideration, we can confirm the obvious: STS is highly institutionalized in a small set of Western European countries, whereas in the rest of countries STS is primarily practiced in the margins of non-STS institutions.


We come thus to the second and more interesting question: how to act as a professional association in this context? I have really never questioned the idea that a major goal of EASST should be to support the institutionalization of STS both at universities and in national research funding agencies. It seems pretty obvious that we aim for a future in which universities have centers or departments of STS, where you can get a job in STS in most countries, and where, when you apply for funding, you don’t need to crook your research questions or methods in order to make them fit in a disciplinary evaluation committee (remember Josefine’s editorial on the presences and absences of STS in grants applications and CVs? See Raasch 2015). I certainly still believe that these are major goals for our field. I applaud the systematic support that EASST has given to the formation of many national STS associations and networks. At the EASST Review, the sections STS Multiple and Cherish, not Perish aim precisely to make visible this process of institutionalization of STS across different countries.

But I think that we should equally make an effort to support a non-institutionalized STS practice, but not in order to help it to become institutionalized, e.g. to create STS centers, associations or journals, but to keep STS a minoritarian intellectual practice in the heart of social and political science disciplines. In other words, couldn’t also be the role of EASST to cultivate STS as a line of flight that effects deterritorializations of the institutions it departs from and that creates a highly experimental, speculative, but also committed intellectual space1? Or to put it differently: couldn’t also be the role of EASST to cultivate STS as an academic ‘extitution’?

I really got to understand this Serresian notion through the work of Daniel López. Two references are illuminating. The first one is a quote: “Institutions fragment, disaggregate, and separate in order to make visible the distinction. To build an institution is to constitute a Cartesian space, clear and distinct […] In contrast, the extitution is a social ordering that does not need to constitute an ‘inside’ and an ‘outside’ but only a surface in/upon which a multitude of agents connect and disconnect” (López 2006). As López further explains in a blog post from 2014 entitled ‘There is no extitution, but modes of extitutionalization’, an extitution is not just a different type of institution, one that could be more heterarchical or with flexible boundaries and that you can point to with the finger, but rather a process of deterritorialization or extitutionalization affecting institutions, contesting power arrangements, and opening up provisory spaces for establishing new connections.

Looking at the incredibly generative history of STS in the last 40 years, my sense is that this didn’t occur in spite of, but rather thanks to its lack of institutionalization; lack of institutionalization that has pushed STS scholars to always invent new connections, new vocabularies, new research objects, and new political commitments2. Might it be that herein lays the crux and paradox of our field, always in need of simultaneously striving for institutionalization and extitutionalization?


1 In ways perhaps related to how the Spanish STS network is currently being practiced and reflected upon. “What would then be prototyping an academic network? We don’t really know but we have decided to explore it through the figure of openness and experimentation: opening spaces of dialogue with other actors and institutions outside the academic environment; experimenting with our academic modalities of rationality and their spatial organization” (Estalella, Ibáñez Martín & Pavone 2013: 6)

2 See, for example, Tomás Criado’s (2017) reflections on his personal experience in both highly fluid and highly institutionalized STS spaces.

Towards a Just Society: STS in the International Panel on Social Progress

The International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP) is a novel attempt at understanding how far we have come and in which direction we should be heading in our quest for a just society. As different articulations of progress pit themselves against one another, each vying for influence on the global agenda, our society is under a great deal of pressure to be reflexive about how we know what we know. Conclusions have been drawn in different fields and on many issues. However, there is a need to come together to discuss how these understandings of our world have a bearing on our collective futures and on issues of justice, responsibility and solidarity – a task requiring inter-disciplinarity. When we consider the myriad interconnected and sometimes subtle ways in which society is affected by change, it is difficult to determine what exactly has had an impact and in what ways those impacts have in turn affected people’s lives in a cumulative way. What progress means is neither apparent nor neutral as it requires an interpretation of such complexities. We also need to determine, as a society, the kinds of power and influence our current systems of accountability allow, which elements of our day-to-day lives we are willing to accept or should deem unacceptable and the ways that we organize ourselves so that governance tends to those shared values in a , bearing in mind that not everyone is able to influence the systems that shape their daily lives. Recent social, economic and political shocks to the global system have made social progress a particularly salient issue. It is time to take stock, to understand more deeply and openly the kind of world we have created and the potential impacts of the ways we have gone about developing and envisioning progress. This need for a reflexive and interdisciplinary vision of progress sets the tone of the work going into the IPSP.

At the 4S/EASST Conference in Barcelona, we had the opportunity to reflect on the ways in which Science, Technology and Society (STS) can contribute to this incredibly complex and pivotal understanding of social progress. We were given an overview of some of the reflections of STS scholars who are contributing to the development of the twenty-two chapters of the Report. The deeper the discussion became, the more striking the relevance of STS across the different issues appeared to be. The pathways that STS’ critical questioning enables, have found meaning in this vast chasm brought about by uncertainty in social progress, the debatable problem constructions and disconnected visions of the future. STS is concerned with process, how knowledge is made, for whom and by whom and its articulations become meaningful when it provides a perspective that closely reflects on the reality faced by knowledge producers themselves. The close involvement in the chapter-writing process has provided STS scholars with a remarkable opportunity to point out the value of STS as knowledge is being made. Moreover, the conversations and joint reflections on social progress can be enriched by the articulations that STS provides. These articulations include reflections on the role and influence of experts and expertise in framing and authority, reflections on power, ordering and governance and the social-construction of science and technology.

STS perspectives on the policy process challenge policy-makers’ preferences for a linear model of progress, wherein the expectations of policy-makers are met with positivistic ideas of science and technology and their goals systematically envisioned as incremental solutions to pre-defined policy questions. STS requires a different way of envisioning the science-policy relationship, as one that is far more intertwined with science, policy and society, contributing instead to the co-production of knowledge and social order (Jasanoff 2004). Change, as STS sees it, is something that should be negotiated with society if controversies are to be avoided. By stressing the social construction of science and technology, STS emphasizes the ways in which knowledge is made and how it is socially contingent, rather than objective or easily transplanted to policy contexts. STS roots its analysis of policy-making in the realities of knowledge production, considering how social contexts contribute towards the settling of facts, the different interpretations of evidence and truth, and the limits of change. The value of an STS perspective in the IPSP is thus brought to the fore as experts attempt to develop knowledge that is both a true reflection of what has been and of what should be done. If the STS perspective is indeed influential, the likelihood is that the expert advice in the reports alludes to more and different policy pathways than would be traditionally expected by policymakers.


Fig. 1: IPSP Authors Region of Origin
Courtesy of International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP): https://www.ipsp.org/people/authors


The contemporary context is one in which experts as well as scientific knowledge play a central role in politics yet they no longer hold the unquestioned authority and public trust they once did (Maasen and Weingart 2005). If we are to restore trust in governance and in the institutions that we entrust to maintain order in our lives, they should be made to reflect the diverse needs of communities around the world and protect the common values that bind us in our quest for a just future and reflect the kind of social progress that is sensitive to context and difference. As a collective group of academics, the IPSP is discussing the implications of global articulations of progress and how these ideas shape and influence the way we see and think of social groups and the kinds of things that influence them. Care needs to be taken to avoid the reification of difference, while the case is being made for equality and solidarity. STS is sensitive towards the effects of collectives, the assemblages that develop and the hidden power to shape interests and agendas through technologies of governance e.g. indicators, technical guides, organizations, practices, codes and rankings (Davis, Kingsbury, and Merry 2012). At the same time, a balance needs to be struck between governing institutions and local communities in shaping claims of justice, solidarity, responsibility, leadership and inequality. This implicates accountability practices, which need to question and align such processes as the courts, arbitration and peer-review. Global articulations attempt to apply norms to different countries and appeal to framings such as human rights as a means of harmonizing those efforts. Facts and technologies appear to be global but can fail to mean the same thing in different places. If a global vision of social progress is to be reached, the understandings should pay attention to the power of framings and their implications on local experiences. It is the hope of the STS scholars involved in the IPSP that these reflections shape the articulations of issues in the chapters.

The IPSP is modeled on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the way that it enrolls experts in the writing of the report. Early in its establishment, the IPCC was criticized for its imbalanced geographical representativeness (Agrawala 1998), and took steps to remedy this problem. The IPSP needs to remedy its representation of authors if its work is to be seen as a credible and legitimate global endeavor. Figure 1 shows the low participation of African and Latin American authors in the IPSP.

The IPSP has the potential to provide a different kind of assessment that is both reflexive and interdisciplinary. STS has an opportunity to demonstrate the many ways in which its articulations are useful and can enrich the dialogue in a powerful way. This is a step in the right direction, however, knowing that there are social conditions that determine the acceptability of expert knowledge, it is important that STS influences the reflections further so that the global community recognizes the products of this endeavor as credible and legitimate.