Center Director Roger Pielke, Jr., recently resigned from CU’s Federal Relations Advisory Committee over CU’s lack of a campus policy on academic “earmarking” (federal funding obtained outside the normal process of proposal and peer review – also known as “pork”). Pielke had urged the committee to adopt a formal policy to clarify the circumstances under which the university would seek and/or accept congressionally directed or “earmarked” funds. Pielke explained his reasoning in a November 9 letter to the editor to the Silver and Gold Record.
Center Faculty Affiliate Carl Mitcham won this year’s prestigious World Technology Network (WTN) award in the category of ethics. The WTN combines a global meeting ground, a virtual think tank, and an elite club whose members are all focused on the business or science of bringing important emerging technologies of all types (from biotech to new materials, from IT to new energy sources) into reality. The WTN's membership is comprised of nearly 1000 individuals and organizations from over 60 countries nominated and judged by their peers to be the most innovative in the technology world.
The World Technology Awards are presented each year to the outstanding innovators from each sector within the technology arena, both as a way to honor those individuals and as a vetting mechanism to determine the newest WTN members. Congratulations Carl!!
Several of the Center’s graduate students and alumni took part in a session organized by the Center at this year’s Society for the Social Study of Science (4S) Annual Meeting. The session, “Questioning Relevance: Exploring the Boundary Between STS and STP,” raised several questions about Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholarship such as: What is relevance? Where does it fit within the goals of STS scholarship? What does it mean in different contexts (i.e. relevance to whom)? Finally, what strategies might STS researchers use to encourage more relevant outcomes? By exploring relevance as an ongoing relationship between academic work in STS and the real-world practice of science and technology policy, the participants in the session brought the often-neglected idea of relevance to the attention of attendees, and discussed whether encouraging the idea as a goal could enhance the robustness of STS as a field.
It began with a paper by Center graduate students Nat Logar and Genevieve Maricle entitled: “Seeking relevance: Defining and Evaluating the STS/STP Boundary.” The talk laid out the relevance-related goals of those members of the STS community who have argued for a new, more relevant model of doing science, and questioned the idea that relevance could be achieved without consideration of the processes through which we produce knowledge. Genevieve Maricle and Center director Roger Pielke, Jr., delivered “The Role of Science Studies in Science Policy,” which evaluated the trends with respect to these goals, and suggested that due to cultural and institutional constraints, STS often falls victim to the same irrelevance as the science that it critiques. The following paper by Center graduate student Elizabeth McNie and Center alumni Erik Fisher, “Questioning Utility: What should count as useful (scientific) information?” then identified cases where STS researchers did have a successful, informative relationship with science policy, and from those suggested how STS might become more broadly relevant to science policies through mediating influences that are analogous to the boundary work that sometimes occurs between scientists and decision makers. After this, Center graduate student Marilyn Averill and Center alumni Adam Briggle questioned relevance as a goal and posited that before we progress too far in such a conversation, we must understand that “relevance” is a very contextual idea that depends highly on what consists of a relevant piece of information, and on to whom such information is pertinent.
Matthew Harsh from the University of Edinburgh and Genevieve Maricle then considered how these same issues play out in different settings, specifically in the United Kingdom and the US. Finally, Jane Lehr from Virginia Tech and others put all of these ideas into action in the context of the Public Engagement of Science and Technology for Education model.
The audience raised several challenging questions, and the session initiated a discussion that could be significant if pursued by the participants and others in the STS community. The session had approximately 30 attendees representing several countries.