Heating up or cooling down?

Speaker: Prof Göran Sundqvist # University of Oslo

30th Sep 2013

15:30 - 17:00

Conference Room, David Hume Tower


Stakeholders and citizens today are often invited to deliberate in controversial processes of scientific and technological decision-making. Scholars in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) have long supported these initiatives to transcend strong expert-lay divides. However, despite many such contributions, there is no agreement on how such broadened participation should be performed, either in theory or practice.

The theoretical ambition of this paper is to reformulate the opposing viewpoints of Michel Callon and Harry Collins on public participation in scientific and technological decision-making. It is argued that they try to “heat up” (Callon) or “cool down” (Collins) the issues they study, i.e. that they enact the objects differently. The performative outcomes of these two strategies are analysed in relation to participation. The empirical ambition is to study recent developments in participatory approaches to radioactive waste management in Belgium and Sweden and the role of social science in connection with these. Due to public criticism of earlier top-down technocratic approaches, this field has played a significant role in enacting and supporting broadened participation. Moreover, while the waste programmes in Belgium and Sweden have both received international recognition for taking participation seriously, the participatory technologies used and the involvement of social science have varied to a great extent. A conclusion is that social science research has been important for how participatory engagements are organised in radioactive waste programmes and as such it also has become involved in processes of “heating up” and “cooling down”. However, social scientists, as well as all actors, need to be more aware of their own initial understanding of the issue at stake – as being “hot” or “cold” – and the consequences of these enactments.


Speaker Biography

Göran Sundqvist is leader of the Science, Technology and Culture research group at the University of Oslo. His research interests include the politics of expertise, public involvement in science and technology policy, and  the interface between science and policy in environmental regulation. 


For more information, please contact Alyson Macdonald (tel. 0131 650 9113).