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Co-production of Science, Technology and Society in Global Governance

Environmental Policy
International Relations
Section Number
Section Chair
Justiina Dahl
European University Institute
Section Co-Chair
Adam Stepien
University of Lapland

Intersections between science, technology and society in global governance have been increasing and taking a plethora of new forms in the twenty-first century. One example of these new junctures is the spread of ‘tipping point’ rhetoric amongst politicians and geoengineering advocacy groups in global climate change negotiations. Another is the enforcement of public skepticism about anthropomorphic climate change. A third illustration of the new kinds of intersections between science, technology and society in global governance in the new millennium is the move towards a new kind of technologically maintained global social universe through the spread and development of social media technology. The quality, quantity, and speed of these kinds of techno-scientific social changes have raised concern about the appropriateness of the existing analytical methods and concepts for the study of expertise in world politics.

Michael Gibbons has described how the social authority of global expertise depends nowadays less on the prestige of specific disciplines and groups of highly respected researches and increasingly on the success of linking together different research communities and knowledge dimensions. Sheila Jasanoff has correspondingly argued that across a widening range of policy discussions, experts’ preoccupation with measuring the costs and benefits of innovation needs to be supplemented with a greater attentiveness to the politics of science and technology. Rodrigo Ribeiro and Francisco Lima have raised the question about the fit between existing methods for the study of expertise in world politics and the new kinds of intersections between science, technology and society in global governance in relation to difficulties in decision-making about who has the right to contribute technically to a technical decision within public debates involving technical matter. This Section explores it from the standpoint of the social and political study of natural and technical scientific networks in global governance.

The kinds of questions the Panels in the Section asks include: Do technical and scientific experts hold similar or different position as other forms of expertise in global governance? Does the increasing use and “trust in numbers” in international organization tell us something special about the social role of science in global governance? What is it like to “see like a state” in a system of states? The more theoretical discussions about the role of techno-scientific expertise in world politics in the session would ideally be complimented with a plethora of empirical examples and case studies of different expert networks, technologies, regimes and material flows constitutive of the global international system.

Any Papers or Panels that discuss these problematics are welcomed to this Section. The three Panels in the Section could, for example, be focused on the following themes:

A) Epistemic communities and the translation of techno-scientific uncertainty into political power (Potential Chair: Justiina Dahl)

- This Panel would examine a set of case studies of epistemic communities of primarily technical and natural scientist in international (or national) policy coordination plagued by techno-scientific uncertainty. Examples of the kinds of epistemic communities under analysis and comparison include global climate change scientists that try to model and come up with adaptation strategies for future climate conditions in different parts of the globe, geo-engineers, and shipping companies looking to expand to trans-Arctic shipping in the Arctic Ocean.

B) Global politics of different transcription machines (Potential Chair: Jeppe Stransbjerg, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Business and Politics)

- Policy makers do not see the world as it is, but as specific technologies and epistemes portray it to them. The Papers in this Panel would explore the politics between different technologies, or in Latourian terms inscription machines, that guide political decision-making in different institutional settings such as the Commission of the Limits of the Continental Shelf or the International Maritime Organization.

C) Comparative politics of scientific and non-scientific knowledge systems in global governance (Potential Chair: Adam Stepien)

- The authority of specific kind of scientific discourse that relies on what Theodore Porter has called “Turst in Numbers” in global policy making characterized by the use of knowledge brokers has been empirically illustrated and analyzed through a plethora of case studies. This Panel would aim to compare the use of and interactions between these kinds of power/knowledge –system and lay and traditional indigenous knowledge ones in different global governance settings.

Chair: Justiina Dahl’s research lies at the intersection of international relations theory, science and technology studies, and environmental studies. In her dissertation Dahl studied the expansion of international society from the perspective of how the members of the expanding club of sovereign states at different times have collectively organized the more or less peaceful expansion of their territorial authority into previously little-known and sparsely populated areas outside and in the outskirts of the established borders of international society. At the moment Dahl is exploring through multi-disciplinary experimental workshops whether the notion of ‘boundary objects’ from science and technology studies could be useful in facilitating more meaningful multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder communication in global governance characterized by changing intersections between science, technology, and different societies.

Co-chair: Adam Stepien’s research has approached the relationship between science, technology and society from many different analytical angels. Stepien has, for example, been the lead author and project coordinator for the 2014 published “‘Strategic Assessment of Development of the Arctic: Assessment Conducted for the European Union” report. His other field work-based research has, in turn, examined how indigenous Arctic and the realm of development aid (in Global South) are interrelated, how ideas, meanings and concepts travel between these two distant geographical spaces, how they are transformed, and how they are used. Currently Stepien is finalizing his PhD, which looks at the development of the EU Arctic policy through the interplay between science, technology, energy and environmental politics at different stages of its formation.

Panel List

Code Title Details
P294Politics of Scientific and Non-Scientific Knowledge Systems in Global Governance View Panel Details
P354Stakeholder Governance in Standards Development Organisations: Exploring Mechanisms of the State, Market and Civil Society in Internet Governance View Panel Details
P367Techno-Scientific Uncertainty and the Translation of Scientific Knowledge into Political Power View Panel Details
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