"We are probably unique in Britain": scalar discourses of science and society

Burchell, Kevin (2008) "We are probably unique in Britain": scalar discourses of science and society. In: Royal Geographical Society (RGS) with the Institute of British Geographers (IBG) Annual International Conference 2008: Geographies that Matter; 27-29 Aug 2008, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


According to Alan Irwin, the 'new scientific governance' in the UK imagines beneficial technological progress, economic development through technological innovation, public trust through public engagement (as well as institutional transparency and accountability), and 'sound science' as an unproblematic policy tool. In this paper I explore three issues relating to the role of public engagement in the 'new scientific governance' in the UK, with an emphasis on scale. 1. Governmental and institutional constructions of the need for public engagement. Here the focus is on a need to compete in a globalised scientific and economic system, and a national problem of potential public concerns about specific research techniques and technological developments that might hinder the ability to compete. 2. The practice of public engagement and public dialogue. Here I emphasise the manner in which the identification of a national public problem precipitates the development of national, regional and local public engagement strategies, and the construction of regional and local publics, groups and individuals that comprise a national public. 3. A contrasting interview-based and highly-regionalised account of UK science-society relations that challenges the notion of a national public and the centrality of national scientific strategies.

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