Fashions in science policy, past and present Arie Rip (University of Twente) The Fred Jevons Science Policy Lecture, Manchester, 4 March 2014
A prefatory remark Fred Jevons’ 1973 book “Science Observed. Science as a social and intellectual activity” was an introduction, sketching the landscape for aspiring students, in Manchester and elsewhere. John Maddox, former editor of Nature, reviewed it for New Scientist, and queried “Where does Jevons stand?”, especially on the issue of good and bad science. My paper is about “Science Policy Observed.” I don’t take a strong stand either. Or at least, I analyse and diagnose, before taking a stand.
My topic: fashions Passing fads (meant pejoratively) That what sweeps actors (cf. bandwagon), and shapes their thinking & action – for a time Can be based on an opportunity that is exploited (cf. goldrush) – and the opportunity may get exhausted Example: a new scientific discovery/approach, like high-temperature superconductive materials, polywater, the overall promise of nanotechnology. Or the theory of determinants in 19th century mathematics.
Research area: mathematical theory of determinants A: New ideas and new results B: Textbooks, applications C: Trivial and repetitive publications K.O.May, Growth and quality of the mathematical literature, Isis 59 (1968) 363-371 Growth and maturity of a research area (cf. product-lifecycle) (The graph of cumulative publications is an S-curve.)
VisibilityTime TechnologyTrigger Trough of Disillusionment Peak of Inflated Expectations Plateau of Productivity Slope of Enlightenment Is a world without hype possible? Gartner Group: Technology Hype Cycle Is a world (of science policy) possible without fashions?
Issue-attention cycle (Downs 1972) Often reduced to “newsworthiness” that is exploited by media (and now also social media). This “opportunity” becomes exhausted, media and public lose interest, and move to another topic. But Downs made a broader point, about how problems are recognized, addressed to some extent, and then left in limbo.
Downs (1972): Five phases 1)Pre-problem stage (latent, unnoticed,...) 2)“Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthousiasm” (about solving it) 3)“Realising the cost of significant progress” 4)“Gradual decline of intense public interest” 5)Post-problem stage (“prolonged limbo”) Articulation of the issue, negotiations, investment in action This leaves “residues”: programs, institutions, networks which persist (Downs, p. 40/41)
Fashions in science policy One example is the convergence of priorities in all (late-)industrialized countries (with funding races as for nanotechnology), driven also by no- regret decision making. But that’s not my topic. Science policy practitioners need ideas and approaches that inspire and mobilize, and offer them an opportunity to act wisely, and be seen to act wisely. Provided by analysts (e.g. Mode 2 of knowledge production), or occurring in practice and given a name (e.g. open innovation)
Case 1: Big Science Alvin Weinberg is said to have coined the term in a 1961 article in Science (cf. Derek de Solla Price, Little Science, Big Science, 1963), but Fred Hoyle may have used it first. For actors, it captures a transformation of science and a decision making problem at the same time A 1987 Task Force of US Congress on the topic was surprised how much big science occurred before the era of Big Science. (cf. also the concern about Grossbetrieb in (German) science, from late 19th century onward)
Important features There is a key word or phrase that captures the underlying diagnosis, and allows it to travel, and be used in many places The key word/phrase is open ended, and used by different actors for their own purposes. The diagnosis may not be historically correct, but is still forceful. An important driver was the post-Sputnik (1957) reflection on what was actually happening in US S&T. “Big Science” became one of the foci. It is now part of the repertoire.
Case 2: Mode 2 of knowledge production The Gibbons et al. booklet (1994) created a stir in many places because it offered a strong diagnosis Hessels and Van Lente (2008) traced some 1000 citations (in Scopus) over the period 1996-2006, still increasing (perhaps slowing down a bit) Of these, 80% take Mode 2 as a given, just a background to the own topic (a safe reference) In science policy, reference to Mode 2 was limited (no decision challenge), and has by now almost disappeared
A timely diagnosis? Yes, but one of many: cf. post-normal science (Ravetz), Strategic Science (Rip), Triple Helix (Leydesdorff and Etzkowitz), post-academic science (Ziman) Are attempts of analysts to come to terms with ongoing changes (transformations?) by naming them, and drawing out implications. Analysts vying for attention...
Case 3: Grand Challenges Current buzzword in the European Union (since the Lund Declaration, 2009); there is a core list of about six Grand Challenges (with some variations) Similar policy talk and action elsewhere, e.g. in the Obama Administration Earlier systematic use by the UK Research Councils, after the 2007 Government Spending Review: to specify their cross-cutting themes like “Energy” and “Ageing: Life-long health and well-being” (which were a way to show they were doing important things with their money)
Addressing Grand Challenges How to actually address such Grand Challenges, with many actors involved and open-ended goals? Plus another Challenge: creating adequate institutions and arrangements. (Ex. of charitable foundations) One driver: need for new opportunities for science & technology policy making, now that economic valorisation is more or less in place The fashionable term will pass, but there will be residues
Case 4: Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) Fashionable discourse with the European Commission; has become an acronym Will be “pervasive” in FP8 (Horizon 2020) One root is the call for “responsible development” of nanotechnology RRI is taken up by further actors, in particular funding agencies and research consortia and institutes – for their own reasons (may be impression management, but that can have implications)
Thanks to Erik Fisher, STIR project, for drawing my attention to this poster.
Responsible innovation, at different levels Macro-level: societal discourse policy Ideas about future world; division of moral labour EU Code of Conduct for Responsible NanoST Research Meso-level: funding agencies branch organzations consortia [New roles/repertoires] Dutch MVI; extended impact statements code of conduct etc ELSA as integral part; Constructive Techn. Ass’t Micro-level: scientists (in the lab) Industrialists/firms “relevance”, ‘fictive script’ Corp. Social Resp., transparency
Multi-level processes This is ongoing, but certain paths become visible: in responsible development of nanotechnology, and by extrapolation, in RRI more broadly (e.g. the neo-liberal principle “do no harm”) Emphasis on newly emerging technologies! New roles, new routines emerge – will persist after the fashion has run its course One driver: to extend ‘social licence to operate’ because of credibility pressures in/of society
A change in handling new technologies? Not just nanotech. Precursors: in Human Genome Project (ELSI component), but also chemical industry’s Responsible Care Program. And now consideration of synthetic biology, geo-engineering. Will this continue? And if so, what form will it take? At the moment, we see reductions to create some tractability: Focus on upstream (to assure acceptance!?) Focus on risk issues (which appear to be more tractable than societal and ethical issues) Add: evolving narratives of praise and blame
By way of conclusion Big Science and Mode 2 started with a diagnosis of ongoing transformation. GC and RRI aim for desirable transformation. Itself a secular change (of science policy)? Fashions are there for a reason, and have effects (non-linear, cf. multi-level processes) STI policy and governance arrangements as the accumulated residues of fashions? There’s more to STI policy. But it does imply that every now and then one should have a critical look at what has accumulated.
‘Responsibility’ language Also used to attribute praise and blame, cf. Ravetz’s aphorism: “Scientists take credit for penicillin, but Society takes the blame for the Bomb” And there is prospective responsibility, a duty to do certain things (and avoid others) Responsibility for progress, even if the powerful knowledge can also be misused So: various strands that can be taken up in RRI
Consider RRI as an attempt at social innovation New and uncertain, distributed... Requires institutional changes, and sub- cultural changes. How to “push” this? Soft command and control (EU/Member states stipulating codes of conduct for RI) But also a business proposition: to extend ‘social licence to operate’ because of credibility pressures in/of society
Increasing interactions between science and society 1870 1945 1970 1985 2000 By now, strongly institutionalized (outer ring is still being articulated) I’ve used this mapping of institutions as a diagnostic tool, e.g. for South Africa
Patient associations influence research agendas and engage in research themselves, undermining the exclusive rights of scientists Technology Assessment, Ethical, Legal & Social Aspects surround ongoing science and technology (Human Genome Project initiated this) Outreach, public engagement – feedback into research agendas? (ex. interactive TA of GM vines) Also consultancies (and NGOs) bridging science and the economy, science and the community Authority over science (knowledge production) is also claimed by non- scientists (from USA Congressmen to patients and indigenous people); counter-authority is not the answer. Re-contextualization of science Increasing interactions between science and society 1870 1945 1970 1985 2000