Science and Democracy Reconsidered

Joseph Harris


To what extent is the normative commitment of STS to the democratization of science a product of the democratic contexts where it is most often produced? STS scholars have historically offered a powerful critical lens through which to understand the social construction of science, and seminal contributions in this area have outlined ways in which citizens have improved both the conduct of science and its outcomes. Yet, with few exceptions, it remains that most STS scholarship has eschewed study of more problematic cases of public engagement of science in rich, supposedly mature Western democracies, as well as examination of science-making in poorer, sometimes non-democratic contexts. How might research on problematic cases and dissimilar political contexts traditionally neglected by STS scholars push the field forward in new ways? This paper responds to themes that came out of papers from two Eastern Sociological Society Presidential Panels on Science and Technology Studies in an Era of Anti-Science. It considers implications of the normative commitment by sociologists working in the STS tradition to the democratization of science.


public engagement; citizen science; democracy; science and technology; STS; sociology

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