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(Re)searching and Innovating for the Public

Citizenship
 
Civil Society
 
Democracy
 
Democratisation
 
Governance
 
Public Policy
 
Technology
 
Presenter
Joshua B. Cohen
University of Amsterdam
Authors
Joshua B. Cohen
University of Amsterdam

Abstract
The importance of the public role of science as a collective and reflexive form of inquiry into current societal and environmental issues and solutions cannot be overstated. As we have learned from the high modernist experience however, well-intended large scale schemes to improve the human condition, which have been informed by science but lack a connection to more public forms of knowledge and reflexivity, can also go awry (Scott 1998). In the past few years, awareness has increased of the fact that current research and innovation (R&I) practices may not only be decoupled from public needs and problems but that past, present and possible future (in)direct consequences of these knowledge production practices may also cause issues to arise and publics to form around them. To still harness the innovative qualities of the current European research and innovation system, whilst also taking account of its current decoupled and potentially disruptive character, the European Union (EU) has coined the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). To further the implementation of this concept in all the Horizon2020-programme lines, 18 Social Labs will be set-up to inject more reflection on the responsibility people working in European R&I practices have towards publics that are affected by these practices.

This paper aims to unpack conceptually what it means to make science and innovation practices and its consequences more ‘public’ through the use of Social Labs in a large research framework programme. By making use of Dewey’s/Marres’ perspective on publics and theories on the relation between power and reflexivity a conceptual analysis will be forged that attempts to answer questions like: How might we conceptually expect the creation of a public sphere of reflexivity to affect individual researchers and innovators, R&I policy makers, their conceptions of the relationship of responsibility between science and society, and a fortiori the multilevel R&I practices and systems in which they are embedded? How might we conceptually imagine this deliberate attempt to innovate R&I practices to contribute to the reflexive deroutinization of current R&I practices and publicization of issues surrounding them so as to make them more public? Lastly, how might we expect existing R&I discourses, narratives, institutional frameworks and accompanying power differentials to mediate experimentation with a logic of ‘publicness’ from a theoretical perspective? The results of this conceptual argument will be used to inform subsequent empirical action research on and experimentation within the Social Labs of which the author is an integral part
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