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Studying knowledge in policy: what do we mean by 'knowledge'?

October 29 2012


Seminar Room 1.06, Old Surgeons' Hall, High School Yards, University of Edinburgh, EH1 1LZ

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Organised by: Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh


The literature on the role of knowledge in policy making encompasses a striking diversity of views on just what knowledge is, what different types of knowledge there may be and how they are to be observed empirically.  In this seminar, we propose a new phenomenology of knowledge based not on 'who knows what, how and why' but on the form that knowledge takes.  Drawing a simple analogy with the three phases of matter - solid, liquid and gas - we argue that knowledge too exists in three phases, which we characterise as embodied, inscribed and enacted.  And just as matter may pass from one phase to another, so too knowledge can be transformed, through various kinds of action, between phases.  Our seminar outlines this model, and explores some of its implications for how we should think about and investigate the role of knowledge in policy.


Steve Sturdy is Head of the Science, Technology and Innovation Studies subject group in the School of Social and Political Science. His research uses insights from the sociology of scientific knowledge to examine how developments in medical science have informed and been informed by wider changes in medical practice and medical policy.

Richard Freeman teaches theory and method in the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, where he is also Director of the University's Public Policy Network. His work is concerned with what policy makers know, with what they do and with the relationship between the two.,26290,en.t4.html