On the Local Constitution of Global Futures: Science and Democratic Engagement in a Decentred World

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This essay focuses on the relationship between public engagement with science and larger discussions of globalized and decentred democracy. In particular, it asks whether public engagement on very specific issues and in the form of carefully-planned exercises should be seen as a distraction (or irrelevance) with regard to the democratic process or else as an enhancement and invigoration of it. It will be argued that we cannot tackle these issues of engagement and democracy without considering the wider challenges of governing what are very often globalized, socio-culturally complex and generally-wicked problems. There is a tendency for engagement initiatives to operate at the regional or national levels. But what happens when the issues are presented as crossing borders and boundaries, and when the traditional centres of power seem sidelined by the expressed requirement for ‘global’ governance? Going further, issues of science and technology governance often involve a special concern with the future or, more specifically, the multiple futures suggested by science, technology and innovation and their relationship to our sense of the present. I will suggest that the heterogeneous practices of scientific governance represent both a challenge when it comes to issues such as climate change and global food security but also an important focus for STS scholarship. Finally, and in the spirit of more grounded conclusions, I suggest six ‘red blooded’ principles for public engagement which can at least get us started in addressing these issues.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Science and Technology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)24-32
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Public engagement
  • Governance
  • Democratic participation

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