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Egenis · News

Scientists and the state



A Vienna workshop examined the history and evolution of the science/state relationship.


The evolving relationships between science/scientists and the state during and since the Cold War was the subject of a workshop at the University of Vienna co-organised by Egenis Research Fellow Alison Kraft.

"Writing Pugwash Histories. From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Kabul and Gaza”, which took place over three days in May, brought together some 30 historians to begin a new historical engagement with the Pugwash movement - The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, to give the movement its formal title. The final report is now available.

"Pugwash represented a distinctive form of activism giving expression to scientists’ evolving sense of social responsibility," explained Alison. "Its first meeting, held in Canada in July 1957, brought together scientists from across a divided and troubled world to discuss the pressing problems of the nuclear age. Its contributions were recognised by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

"This workshop was a starting point in building understanding of the movement’s development, achievements and significance," said Alison. "It also began to establish a network of historians focused on analysing Pugwash in its many national contexts and explaining its role as a transnational actor in a period of profound tensions and geopolitical change.

"It was also an opportunity to learn about innovative ways of engaging with politically sensitive policy matters in ways that enrich our understanding of the evolving relationship between science/scientists and society. In the post-Cold War period, Pugwash is seeking to engage with some of the pressing issues of our time, for example, climate change, biological weapons, and poverty."

The workshop was co-organised with colleagues Carola Sachse and Silke Fengler (University of Vienna) and Holger Nehring (Sheffield/Historische Friedensforschung) and was generously funded by by the Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät der Universität Wien, the FWF, Deutsche Stiftung Friedensforschung and Wien Kultur.