Robust Scientists

Birgitte Gorm Hansen

    Publikation: KonferencebidragKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review


    The concepts of “socially robust knowledge” and “mode 2 knowledge production” (Nowotny 2003, Gibbons et al. 1994) have migrated from STS into research policy practices. Both STS-scholars and policy makers have been known to propomote
    the idea that the way forward for today’s scientist is to jump from the ivory tower and learn how to create high-flying synergies with citizens, corporations and governments. In STS as well as in Danish research policy it has thus been argued that scientists will gain more support and enjoy greater success in their work by
    “externalizing” their research and adapting their interests to the needs of outside actors. However, when studying the concrete strategies of such successful scientists, matters seem a bit more complicated. Based on interviews with a plant biologist working in GMO the paper uses the biological concepts of field
    participants as the analytical framework for describing the complex relationship between academic science and its so called “external” habitat. Although relational skills and adaptability do seem to be at the heart of successful research management, the key to success does not lie with the ability to assimilate to industrial agendas and concerned citizens. By contrast, it is
    precisely by not becoming dependent on public opinion, political interest or corporate agendas that a group of Danish GMO researchers managed to survive decades of political resistance and scarce resources. The paper makes a comparison between the development of the danish GMO research group and one of their objects of study: A toxic moth capable of adapting to a hostile
    environment. Insect strategies for survival are not unlike those deployed by the GMO scientists who study them. The paper argues that scientific ecologies respond to policy change in ways that are unpredictable and difficult to control. Few Danish GMO scientists survived the commercialization-wave initiated by
    neoliberal research policy. However, the ones who did seem to have become more or less resistant to policy changes and public opinion. Rather than promoting socially "robust knowledge", Danish research policy seems to have helped develop politically and economically "robust scientists". Scientific robustness is acquired by way of three strategies: 1) tasting and discriminating
    between resources so as to avoid funding that erodes academic profiles and push scientists away from their core interests, 2) developing a self-supply of industry interests by becoming entrepreneurs and thus creating their own compliant industry partner and 3) balancing resources within a larger collective of
    researchers, thus countering changes in the influx of funding caused by shifts in political and industrial interests. The paper concludes by stressing the potential danger of policy habitats who have promoted the evolution of robust scientists based on a competitive system where only the fittest survive. Robust scientists, it is argued, have the potential to become a new “invasive species” in the scientific ecosystem and may threaten the bio diversity of academic research.
    StatusUdgivet - 2012
    BegivenhedThe 4S/EASST Joint Conference 2012: Design and displacement: Social Studies of Science and Technology - Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Danmark
    Varighed: 17 okt. 201220 okt. 2012
    Konferencens nummer: 2012


    KonferenceThe 4S/EASST Joint Conference 2012
    LokationCopenhagen Business School