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Upstream engagement with science and technology: Opportunities and challenges: A mini-symposium

July 18 – July 18 2011

The University of Edinburgh
College of Humanities and Social Science
St John's Land
Holyrood Road
Edinburgh EH8 8AQ

Organised by: ESRC Genomics Forum

View Jack Stilgoe\'s presentation - From Upstream Engagement to Responsible Innovation (PDF, 2,469 KB?ج)

View Jameson M. Wetmore?ج\'s presentation - Swimming Upstream: When Scientists and Engineers are More Concerned about Science and Technology than the Public (PDF, 1,547 KB?ج)


Social scientists are increasingly inclined to engage directly with scientists and engineers to consider the social aspects and implications of their research, and to ensure that those implications are reflected in science and technology policy.  So-called "upstream" engagement -- engagement that takes place early in the R&D process -- brings with it particular opportunities and particular challenges.  Upstream engagement provides an opportunity to ensure that scientific and technological R&D develops in ways that are responsive to societal needs and concerns.  But at the same time, it needs to take account of the uncertainties inherent in the R&D process.  This mini-symposium will include presentations by two social scientists who are actively involved in upstream engagement with scientists, engineers and policy makers, and will provide a chance to discuss the opportunities and challenges involved in such work.


Jameson M. Wetmore (Arizona State University) - Swimming Upstream: When Scientists and Engineers are More Concerned about Science and Technology than the Public

Abstract: Thus far, few Americans know much about nanotechnology and fewer still worry that it will cause any problems. Government agencies, corporations, and academic organizations have taken steps to generate discussion, gather public input, and create a smooth transition to a nano-enabled world, but there are still few discussions amongst the public. To deal with this problem the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU has developed a number of efforts to get scientists and engineers engaged in thinking about the ramification of their work earlier in the process rather than later. This talk will argue that active participation by scientists and engineers can be a way to both generate the knowledge needed for anticipatory governance and to motivate decision makers, if not the public, to take proactive steps.

Jack Stilgoe (University of Exeter) - From Upstream Engagement to Responsible Innovation

Abstract: Over the last ten years, we have seen growing recognition among policymakers that debates about emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology and geoengineering need to be opened up to new perspectives. A number of experiments in ‘upstream engagement’ have taken place. Taken together, these experiments have revealed early suggestions ofpublic values that might usefully inform governance. But confusion about the purposes of upstream engagement and institutional obsession with processes of engagement have obscured more important questions about the politics and governance of science and technology. I propose that a recent re-framing ofthis agenda in terms of ‘responsible innovation’ provides a constructive way forward.,24848,en.t4.html