Science and Democracy Reconsidered

  • Joseph Harris Boston University
Keywords: public engagement, citizen science, democracy, science and technology, STS, sociology


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.

Author Biography

Joseph Harris, Boston University

Joseph Harris is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Boston University. He conducts comparative historical research that lies at the intersection of sociology, political science, and global health. He is author of Achieving Access: Professional Movements and the Politics of Health Universalism (Cornell University Press, 2017). He has earned two Fulbright awards for his research on health policy in Thailand, has served as Associate Editor for Health Policy at Social Science and Medicine, and is a member of the governing Council of the ASA Section on the Sociology of Development.


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08 Jan 2020
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