SKAPE-net keynote lecture: 'Climate Change and the Politicization of Science'

Speaker: Mark Brown # Department of Government, California State University, Sacramento

18th Jun 2015

16:30 - 18:00

6th Floor Common Room, Chrystal Macmillan Building, George Square


Many commentators today lament the politicization of science, while others insist that science is essentially political. Proponents of these competing views often find themselves talking past each other, because they hold different assumptions about what it means to politicize science in the first place. Bringing together work in political theory and science and technology studies (STS), this presentation examines different ways of thinking about the politics of science with regard to their implications for climate change. On the one hand, STS scholars have long shown how the boundary between science and politics becomes a matter of locally contingent negotiations. Many even suggest that analysts should study the empirical emergence of “politics” without any prior notion of what politics is or where to find it. On the other hand, many STS scholars implicitly or explicitly adopt the notion that everything is political in one sense or another. These approaches are two sides of the same coin, insofar as they both conceive politics in spatial terms. They focus on where politics is rather than what specific activities it might involve. In contrast to these approaches, I argue that distinguishing among different conceptions of politics can facilitate the empirical study of how science becomes politicized and depoliticized in particular contexts. It also makes it easier to understand the politics of hybrid issues like climate change. Rather than arguing over whether climate science has been or should be politicized, we can examine the implications of different ways of making climate science into a site of politics.