IntroductionCesagen is convening three panels at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)in Copenhagen in October.
Cesagen is pleased to announce it is convening 3 panel sessions at this years' Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), held jointly with European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) in Copenhagan, 17 - 20 October.
Papers are invited for all 4 Open Panels described below:
Redesigning Age and Ageing: Anti-Ageing Science and Medicine in the 21st Century
Organised by Professor Joanna Latimer, Cardiff School of Social Sciences and CesagenThis panel addresses how ageing is becoming a key site of techno-scientific enhancement. Many societies are ageing at a time of great economic turbulence, with widening gaps in socioeconomic status and increasing variation across class, age and ethnicities. Ageing well, for both individuals and communities, is one of the greatest challenges facing the 21st century. Greater longevity is associated with decline and deterioration in health, loss of productivity and is increasingly represented as incurring costs not just to society but also to communities and the generations that follow. Recent publicity over failures of care of older people as well as unrest related to public-sector pensions, and at the other extreme, the costs of higher education, are vivid and timely reminders of the societal tensions that inter-generational contracts can present and the challenges that a shift in the age structure of a society can bring. Valuing ageing and the aged is increasingly problematic, intensifying fears of old age. Biomedical science is one of the ways that governments and societies are meeting this challenge, often headlined as ‘putting life into years’ or ‘life-long wellbeing’. The aim is to extend the period of health and productivity, the ‘third age’, and reduce the length of the fourth age, as the time of increasing ill health and dependency. Biomedical innovation is both in terms of the traditional medical model of the prevention or alleviation of specific age related disease, as well as, more controversially, in terms of addressing biological ageing itself as the greatest risk factor for chronic disease, with claims that growing old is, from an evolutionary perspective, ‘unnatural’ and even that we should reconsider ageing as itself a disease. Possibilities for biomedical intervention to ‘cure ageing’ are imminent. This panel examines how ageing is being legitimated as a biological site ‘to be managed’ by science and medicine, and explores the ethical, cultural and social consequences of anti-ageing science and technology, for example in terms of different hopes, dreams and expectations created by anti-ageing science and technology, particularly in relation to death, immortality, and dys/utopian visions.
The impact of ‘impact’: public-making and pseudo science engagement.
Organised by Richard Watermeyer and Michael Arribas-Ayllon, Cesagen, Cardiff University
The recent coupling in British Higher Education (HE) of public engagement with an impact agenda arises from various historical concerns over the government of knowledge economies: how do we promote public acceptance towards technoscience, increase expert accountability and foster active citizenship?
This panel session will offer a critical discussion of how increasing pressure for university-based scientists to achieve measurable economic and social impact(s) is at risk of producing a kind of ‘pseudo engagement’. The panel will consider testimonial and observational evidence of how an engagement agenda for the UK’s scientific community is appropriated not to thicken public debate or dissolve public-expert boundaries, but to secure experts’ ‘licence to operate’. A programme for public engagement appears in this context to have more to do with ‘public-making’ and ‘consensus-building’ than the mobilization of a critical and interventionist public in scientific debate. Rather than participatory and open, many officially sponsored engagement events appear to be highly regulated, choreographed, pre-determined and closed. The project of public engagement and its purported impacts, certainly as a catalyst of participation and empowerment, seems in part to be colonised by competing interests whereby different stakeholders recruit ‘the public’ to rehearse expertise rather than engage in meaningful dialogue and debate. This is the practice of pseudo science-engagement.
The panel will interrogate the hypothesis of pseudo-science engagement drawing together the critical perspectives of Public Engagement with Science and Technology (PEST) scholars (some with specialism in UK HE policy), science communicators and public dialogue facilitators and evaluators.
The End(s) of the Human Genome Project
Organised by Adrian Mackenzie, Ruth McNally, Maureen McNeil, Richard Tutton, Cesagen, Lancaster University
The Human Genome Project was a major marker in the development of and ambitions for the biomedical sciences. The HGP has been frequently and repeatedly re-evaluated and re-configured in various ways. Eleven years on from the publication of the draft sequence in 2001, this panel will assess the designs constituted or embedded in this intervention. Almost immediately, it was cast as a foundation and blueprint for the future, as well as being an end in itself. At the same time, the blueprint has been constantly revised, amended and diversified. The excesses of the genome have deleted and displaced other fields as well generated new promises, enterprises and expectations biology and medicine. The proliferation of 'omics' is one notable sign of these dynamics.
In this open panel, we invite contributions that address:
• historical perspectives on the initial designs, conception, practice and problems of HGP and related trajectories;
• the promissory and speculative temporalities of genomics then and now;
• modes of organization and practice in scientific infrastructures and work with reference to bioeconomy, biocapital, biopolitics or bio-digital technosciences;
• the propagation of images, concepts, narrative and data about HGP across popular, scientific, commercial, literary and governmental media;
• how STS has encountered, intervened, participated, supported or critiqued the development and design of HGP and its legacies (e.g. ELSI);
• considerations of how HGP constitutes new or altered versions of subjectivity, embodiment, and materiality;
• the web of connections between HGP and diversified sites of knowing living and non-living things.
Re-ordering and re-making the BIO in contemporary technoscience and design: reflections from STS and beyond
Organized by Rebecca Ellis, Claire Waterton and Brian Wynne, Cesagen, Lancaster University
This open panel invites reflection on STS work on the contemporary (re)ordering and (re) making of the bio-. Innovations in synthetic biology, cybergenomic taxonomy, DIY-BIO, proteomics etc. have attracted a range of studies documenting and analysing the proliferation and reclassification of life forms (parts and wholes) as an assortment of bodied manifestations (Helmreich 2009). STS research assumes that no normative position on socio-natural ordering can be justified by reference to ‘nature’, life or the biological: nature’s unstable forms are also socially, culturally and historically contingent. As biological forms are refracted and re-designed through new techno-scientific possibilities, however, the question of life’s possible independence from human interventions is being revisited (Clark, Hird).
The panel organisers note a striving, amongst STS and cognate disciplines, for a collective ethics around nature, the natural and the biological, that accepts the social, cultural and historical contingency of life forms, whilst also trying to imagine new forms of responsibility and relation (including non-relation).Thus a creative tension is in the air, reflected in studies witnessing the (re-)making, understanding, collecting, counting, saving, owning and commodifying of life forms and the increasing complexity and multiplicity of our relations with them.
The panel invites papers about extending our ideas of life, designing new life, finding new registers and orders of life and new ways of making life matter, whilst keeping alive questions such as: Why the category of life has recently been attributed such fresh importance? What role has technoscientific innovation, design and experiment had in creating this focus? How are existing forms of life and companion species understood, suppressed, ignored, deleted, or honoured by technoscientific ambitions and concerns? Can studies address the relationship between acknowledging contingency yet accepting modest responsibility for the natural, the bio, or life itself?