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Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
The socialisation of scientific and technological research

by Yuri Castelfranchi and Nico Pitrelli

In the last decades, production of science and technology as well as science-society relationships started changing rapidly. Research is asked to be more effective, fast, accountable, trans-disciplinary, result-oriented, policy-driven and able to generate benefits for people and firms in the short and middle run. While a strong intensification of science-society relationships is occurring, an increasing number of actors and stakeholders are involved in research production. At the same time, pervasiveness of technology is rendering users an active part in technological development; economic and social interests on science and technology are growing on a global scale; new democratic and ethical issues emerge. Despite the European institutions’ efforts, all those trends and phenomena are occurring in an extremely fragmented way. In this scenario, a fairly balanced and consistent co-evolution between science and society can no longer be taken for granted. This is just the starting point of the following comment section that, through the  Luciano d’Andrea, Sally Wyatt, Erik Aarden, Jos Lejten and Peter Sekloča’s writings, aims to analyse the different aspects and questions around the socialisation of science and technology’s matter.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Science and technology: socialising what for whom?

by Sally Wyatt

In the Handbook on the socialisation of scientific and technological research, edited by Wiebe Bijker and Luciano d’Andrea, ‘socialisation’ is used to both describe and prescribe the ways in which science and technology are used in society. In this comment, ‘socialisation’ is discussed from two other points of view. First, the ways in which science and technology are sometimes used to organize, structure and dominate the social are identified. Second, drawing on Merton’s norms of science, an argument is made against over-socialising science and in favour of acknowledging and preserving the ‘special’ nature of science, for its own sake and because, at its best, science can offer an alternative model for other social activities.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Technoscience, technological cultures and socialisation

by Erik Aarden

Technoscience is deeply linked to national cultures across terrains as diverse as medicine, agricultural biotechnologies, ICTs, energy technologies, etc. Understanding the cultural dimension of technoscience is vital for the project of socialisation. This project should be embedded in technological and political cultures, taking variation in cultural approaches to technoscience, national identity and political decision-making seriously. Socialisation of science and technology in Europe should therefore approach socio-technical developments in a way that allows for the emergence of controversies and alternative scenarios and their resolution. Only when we take the links between technological cultures, liberal democracy and technoscience seriously we will be able to confront some of today's most pressing and complex problems.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Social technologies and socialization of research

by Jos Leijten

Whether we like it or not, and how many difficulties this may pose, scientific research and technology are becoming the “property” of everybody and increasingly will become subject of public guidance and political decision making. Socialization happens because what people think, want and do has become central to the development of science and technology. Socialization of research is simply happening because it is the development characteristic of a society in which knowledge is becoming the main driving force. And just like in agricultural or industrial societies in the past it leads to (re-)invent the institutions and mechanisms which allow the knowledge society to function properly. This note will further explore the developments contributing to the socialization of research and their impact on research and research institutes. It will focus more on technologies than on science per se, because applications and usage will become the main drivers.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Sep 21, 2009 Commentary
Public scientific communication: reflections on the public and its participation forms

by Peter Sekloča and Ernest Ženko

Scientific communication also pertains to the domain of society, where the formation of public opinion about science and technology is taking place. Concerning this process, two main points are exposed in the commentary. The first is a proposition on how the public as a social category may be conceptualized, and the second is the extent of the participation of members of the public in strengthening socialization and democratization practices in new, highly complex, contexts of scientific research. The public is conceptualized to include all citizens no matter their professional origin, including scientists, which promotes the idea of openness and equality of the public sphere where scientific issues are discussed. To be democratic in its practical-political setting, such a conception needs to deal with the problems of participation in a highly mediatized world, where not every member of the public could be included into scientific research. The author thus reflects on the mechanisms which would enable the formation of public forums where the trust of influential public actors as stakeholders of research can be tested.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Jul 20, 2009 Article
Mapping gender differences in understanding about HIV/AIDS

by Surjit Singh, Gauhar Raza, S.N. Misra and Pushpa Dahiya

The present article investigates public understanding of HIV/AIDS related issues that touch the thought structure of common citizen, among the Indian public. Analysis is based on a representative sample collected from 10 states of India. The authors have also analysed the relative cultural distance at which men and women, as separate groups, could be placed. The relative cultural distance, for each of the selected issues, has been computed and it was found that men, as a group, are closer to scientific thought structure compared to women.

Volume 8 • Issue 03 • 2009

Feb 24, 2009 Article
Using communication research to gather stakeholder preferences to improve groundwater management models: a South Texas case study

by Ric Jensen and Venkatesh Uddameri

There is a compelling need to ensure that the points of view and preferences of stakeholders are fully considered and incorporated into natural resources management strategies. Stakeholders include a diverse group of individuals in several sectors that have an interest in how natural resources are managed. Typically, stakeholders with an interest in groundwater resources include groups who could be affected by the manner in which the resource is managed (e.g., farmers who need water for irrigation; municipalities and individuals who need drinking water, agencies and organizations that want to maintain in-stream flows to support ecosystems, etc.) Refugio County in South Texas provides an interesting case study since several groups of water users in the region are working with researchers at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) to develop decision-support models that incorporate stakeholder concerns. The focus of this paper is to provide a series of arguments and approaches about the ways in which stakeholder issues have recently been incorporated into environmental models, to briefly describe some of the TAMUK efforts to develop groundwater models that incorporate stakeholder inputs, and to present and discuss a method in which communication research can be used to obtain stakeholder preferences input into modeling efforts.

Volume 8 • Issue 01 • 2009

Dec 19, 2008 Article
Public participation and rural management of Brazilian waters: an alternative to the deficit model

by Alessandro Luís Piolli and Maria Conceição da Costa

The knowledge deficit model with regard to the public has been severely criticized in the sociology of the public perception of science. However, when dealing with public decisions regarding scientific matters, political and scientific institutions insist on defending the deficit model. The idea that only certified experts, or those with vast experience, should have the right to participate in decisions can bring about problems for the future of democracies. Through a type of "topography of ideas", in which some concepts from the social studies of science are used in order to think about these problems, and through the case study of public participation in the elaboration of the proposal of discounts in the fees charged for rural water use in Brazil, we will try to point out an alternative to the deficit model. This alternative includes a "minimum comprehension" of the scientific matters involved in the decision on the part of the participants, using criteria judged by the public itself.

Volume 7 • Issue 04 • 2008

Dec 19, 2008 Article
Popularization of Science in Brazil: getting onto the public agenda, but how?

by Márcia Tait Lima, Ednalva Felix das Neves and Renato Dagnino

The importance the Brazilian government has given in the last few years to the dissemination of science points out the necessity of a more discerning analysis about the establishment of this subject on the public agenda and the related public policies undertaken. This work tries to contribute to the debate as an inquiry about the policies to popularize and disseminate Science and Technology (S&T) established by the Science and Technology Popularization and Dissemination Department, which was created in 2004. In order to do so, theoretical references from Public Policy Analysis, the Studies of Science, Technology and Society (SSTS), and Public Communication of Science are used. Furthermore, we analyze some of the results from research on Science and Technology Understanding carried out in Brazil in 2006. As a final point, this associated approach aims at identifying some of the limiting factors related to science dissemination actions in Brazil.

Volume 7 • Issue 04 • 2008

Sep 20, 2007 Book Review
Science and society of knowledge

by Pietro Greco

Probably among the first to deal with it, nearly sixty years ago, Norbert Wiener, the founding father of cybernetics (The human use of human beings. Cybernetics and Society, Houghton Mifflin Company, London, 1950), prefigured its opportunities, as well as its limitations. Today, it is a quite common belief. We have entered (are entering) a new, great era in the history of human society: the age of information and knowledge.

Volume 6 • Issue 03 • 2007