Second ISA Forum of Sociology, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1-4 August 2012

Research Committee on
Sociology of Science and Technology, RC23

  on-line programme

Programme Coordinator

Ralph MATTHEWS, University of British Columbia, Canada,

Programme Committee members:

RC23 Liaison in Argentina
Mariana Versino, Universidad Nacional de La Plata,

Volunteer at the venue
Natalia Gianni,


All Forum participants (presenters, chairs, discussants, etc.) need to pay the early registration fee by April 10, 2012, in order to be included in the programme. If not registered, their names will not appear in the Programme or Abstracts Book.


provisional as of March 15, 2012, in alphabetical order


Beyond risk: Governing unknowns

Although the ‘sociology of ignorance’ has a long history, dating back at least to Herbert Spencer’s reflections on religion and the unknown, debates on ignorance, knowledge gaps or non-knowledge as inherent features of knowledge making in science and everyday life have only recently gained broader attention from sociologists, especially from STS scholars criticizing the potentially misleading role of risk assessments when clear knowledge about probabilities and outcomes are not available.

This raises questions about the conditions under which actors are legally entitled to point to their “non-knowledge” as explanation. It also raises questions on the varied ways that actors may seek to not know about certain things in the sense that they may consciously avoid knowledge from emerging in the first place. To the end, it needs to be asked on how much do actors need to know in order to make strategic use of deliberate knowledge avoidance?

This session seeks papers that build on the observation that it is more often things that are not known that are most important in decision-making and thus more pivotal for sociological analysis than risk related issues.


Changing dynamic in research organizations

This session is intended to provide in-depth perspectives on the way in which the role of scientific research organizations is changing in various countries and international contexts.


Contested science, risk and governance


Democracy and surveillance technologies: Relationships between global South and global North

The session seeks to understand the impact of surveillance society in the reconfiguration of relationships between global South and global North. It will focus primarily on analyzing the way in which nation states in both regions establish an interchange of personal or group information collected by different forms of surveillance as such as census, ID cards, population and migrants. This starting point allows the articulation of particular questions: How do the governments in the global North and South organize legal regulation regarding consent of the flows of information? What is the global process of transference of surveillance technology, and “know how” skills of surveillance?

These questions are important because they open a new reconfiguration of citizenship, the public and private, and the manner in which social sorting occurred. Cross national studies are important to comprehend the effects of surveillance between national states in global north and global south. Which is the impact in the construction of democratic institutions in both regions? The session particularly welcomes cross national studies of different types of surveillance and papers which relate to the development of surveillance institutions in Latin America.


Democratising science and technology through protests and mobilizations for social justice

Joint session of RC23 Sociology of Science and Technology [host committee] and RC48 Social Movements, Collective Action and Social Change
Modern Science and technology as social institutions have been elitist compared to other forms of community based, traditional sciences and technologies. Often the latter are treated as indigenous forms of S&T. Such rich traditions that are embedded in socio-cultural systems cannot be treated as mere trash or superstitions. Because these too have been empirically founded, developed through trial and error method and hence have been carriers of some form of verifiable wisdom and experiences. Besides, these too have been found to be socially and culturally more appropriate to certain people/ communities, occupationally and physically non-displacing and ecologically sound. Such traditional and alternative forms of sciences and technologies need recognition and these have often raised their voices for their inclusion and due recognition, meaning, to be in par with modern Science and Technology. This of course means increasing democratization of the institution of modern Science and technology. Thus by being more inclusive S&T would be more democratized and would imbibe spirit social justice of a certain kind.

These voices of protests have been heard in both developed as well as developing countries. This process of democratization refers to the Science, technology and civil society interface areas where civil society agents mostly NGOs/ activist organizations/ intellectuals as pressure groups have influenced policies and shaped the growth of S&T in certain domains. Their mobilizations have been seen to be for protection of indigenous knowledge systems /indigenous technological practices, protection of people against testings of new drugs/ pharmaceuticals, instruments of fertility/ sterility, varying applications of new technologies of ICT type/ Nano technologies, etc in relation to human health.

Similarly in the area of agriculture voices have been raised for maintaining farmers’ rights over seeds, maintaining bio-diversity, traditional varieties of crop species and cropping patterns, etc. Further the impact of bio-technology products on human health and ecology have been severely contested in recent times in different parts of the developing world where NGOs have taken the lead.

All these protests of above kind have been seen as mobilizations both at ground level as well as at the discursive level. And hence these mobilizations have taken the shape of various forms of sustainable/ appropriate/ alternative technology movements, peoples’ science movements, science popularization movements, anti-science movements, anti-ecological movements (targeting epistemological foundation of S&T), anti-globalization movements (of particular kind, involving local/ traditional knowledge systems).


Forms of interaction between science, universities and society: Knowledge mobilization, regulation and the societal impacts of scientific knowledge

The latter part of the 20th century witnessed a radical transformation in the ways of understanding the relationship between science, university and society. In science studies, the transformation of the university research was discussed in terms of changing norms of science and altering contract between science and society. In research policy and higher education research, the societal role of science and university was redefined in terms of academic capitalism, entrepreneurial university and Mode-two knowledge production. Research also began to address risks and ethical problems created by scientific and technological advancement as well as the roles of scientists as advisors and experts in different areas of the society. Finally, the traditional topic of public understanding of science began to give way to public engagement in science thereby emphasizing the democracy of science and technology.

In the policy arena, science and technology policy was transformed into more encompassing innovation policy with focus on institutional conditions of economic growth and competiveness of nations in the global knowledge-based economy. The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 in the U.S. exemplified this transformation and constituted a model for university policies in many countries. The aim of the law was to accelerate industrial utilization of university research by enhancing patenting of research results. Intermediaries and technology transfer offices were established in universities overall the world to achieve this goal. Subsequently, the model was heavily criticized. Not only was patenting regarded as a limited method of technology transfer but excessive patenting was also seen to inhibit development of new knowledge. Despite this, the third mission activities of the university in many countries are currently framed on the basis of ideas derived from the Bayh-Dole Act.

Today, the need for more complex view on the societal impact of the university research is pronounced. First, the perspective in developing science impact assessment procedures has been one of centralized administrative planning and control at the national level. At the same time, however, it has been noted that there are big differences between disciplines in terms of their typical societal influence mechanisms. What the current knowledge thus lacks is a satisfactory understanding of the various ways in which universities and academic researchers collaborate with other societal stakeholders and contribute to the society.

Second, the innovation systems approach has focused on the commercialization of research results, forms of technology transfer and the collaboration networks between universities and firms. It is only recently, however, that the need to understand other forms of knowledge transfer between university and the wider society was recognized. Third, the recent emphasis in innovation policy on the societal impact of university activities runs the risk of conceptualising the third mission of the university as a task separate from those of scientific research and education. To avoid this misconception there is a need to analyse and highlight the various ways in which these two basic tasks of the university are connected to the societal usefulness of the work done by academics.

The present session contributes to the understanding of the societal impact of academic research by addressing the diversity of forms and mechanisms of university-society interaction. It also seeks to increase knowledge about the various ways in which epistemic and social motives of research are intertwined, and strives for widening the perspective of assessing and measuring the university’s third mission activities. Finally, the session contributes to the understanding of the democracy of science by paying attention to the different ways in which societal stakeholders influence university practices in different countries and in different fields of research.


Gender, science and technology: Post-colonial and feminist perspectives

Joint session of RC23 Sociology of Science and Technology and RC32 Women in Society [host committee]
Post-colonial feminist perspectives on gender, science, and technology accommodate a vast array of disciplines and contesting perspectives. Essentially, the interconnectedness of racism, colonialism and globalization, and their impact on women and gender, set a context for understanding the concerns, priorities, and contributions of post-colonial feminist scholars regarding the democratization of science and technology– from the rejection of a widely assumed neutrality to the active deconstruction of male scientific imaginary and practice, based upon a hierarchical opposition between science and nature. Post-colonial feminists have long questioned the aims and methods taken for granted in a white, male, upper-class scientific community which used to enjoy colonial privileges – and successfully unveiled the power relations underlying scientific knowledge, in terms of class, race, gender and sexuality.

This session will discuss the meanings and understandings post-colonial feminism brings to the subject of gender, science, and technology. Questions to consider include: Has the ‘critical mass’ of women in the scientific professions been achieved? How do women in scientific careers locate themselves in relation to science and its practice? How can women change the directions of science and technology? What about the different feminist standpoints, politically and ethically, on hot issues such as nuclear energy, genetically modified seeds and embryos, military research and nano-biotech? In an era of growing economical and environmental crises, what are the priorities, the criteria, the objectives? How can social scientists contribute to this discourse, in terms of a re-definition of a socially useful science and technology?


ICTs for science and technology development in Latin America and the economic South: Present and future

Joint session of RC07 Futures Research and RC23 Sociology of Science and Technology [host committee]
Although it is well documented that ICT’s are not evenly distributed along the world and the development gap between the rich and the poor among and within countries has increased, some advantages have been obtained from the comprehensive use of the technological means to communicate around the world for S&T advancement.

What Latin Americans and the Economic Southerners have to say in terms of possible advantages/disadvantages rendered by the relative easiness to communicate with peers both in the industrialized and not industrialized countries? What can be visualized as the future of these communications? What theoreticians have to say in terms of current and future developments? Is the explosion of ICT’s helping/obstructing our science, technology and innovation? These and many other questions are proposed for exploration. Both personal experiences and theoretical advances are welcome.

The session will be run in both English and Spanish. Since simultaneous translation is not feasible, we ask presenters who can do, to produce slides in both languages. Presentations in one language are welcome. We will arrange the public in such a way that those who speak both languages be seated close to those who don’t for a personal translation.


Interfaces between the technical world and the lived reality.


International science and technology cooperation: The role of academic mobility

Mobility is seen as an important method of exchanging information, skills and experience between universities, the academic world, and industry, as well as between different countries and scientific institutions. The mobility of scientists, from students to senior, whether incoming or out-going, is vital for encouraging exchanges between R&D communities of different countries. The international mobility becomes a significant tool of increasing the cooperation in science.

The Session invites papers that explore the themes of processes of democratization and liberalization in S&T that are a condition for stronger international mobility and cooperation among scientists. The Session will look at the current situation regarding international S&T cooperation and academic mobility in different countries, providing an overview of recent initiatives, current challenges, new policy initiatives, barriers and existing trends


Knowledge based economies and networks of knowledge transfer

Joint session of RC02 Economy and Society [host committee] and RC23 Sociology of Science and Technology
Many academics and researchers have demonstrated the strong relationship among science and technology investment and GPI growth. This statement has become a fruitful inspiration to relatively new development recipes for developing countries. Some countries have growth. Nevertheless, other countries are still far away from thinking about a knowledge-based economy. Why? What are the consequences?

Thousands of corporations, governments and universities across the world have benefited from knowledge transfer. Networks have played a key role to expand, assimilate and adapt global knowledge. What are the configurations of these networks at regional and national level? What are the impacts of adopting a knowledge development model that has been generalized to every national system? How could a knowledge regime emerge and what are their characteristics and possibilities in different countries and regions?

This joint session tries to understand successes and failures in implementing knowledge-based economy models; conflicts between knowledge, economic and political regimens; and the configuration and consequences of knowledge networks on economics, politics and society. Our goal is to present and discuss the determinants, mechanisms and impacts of knowledge-based economies and networks of knowledge transfer.


Latin America in the global science system

In this session contributors analyse the relative position of Latin American research systems (LA) in the global science system. It explores the factors influencing collaborative and competitive relations between LA and research systems in North America, Western Europe and the Asia Pacific as well as the impact of these relations on the functioning of LA research systems. Factors that facilitate or hinder the development of such ties can, for example, include historical factors, language, institutional support (including programs), mobility flows, research topics and the access to resources.

Topics that can be addressed include:

These topics can be tackled using quantitative as well as qualitative methodological approaches from a broad range of theoretical perspectives.


Leisure and digital transformation: Emerging patterns of communication and electronic community/ El ocio y las transformaciones digitales/ Les loisirs et les transformations numériques

Joint session of RC13 Sociology of Leisure [host committee] , RC14 Sociology of Communication, Knowledge and Culture and RC23 Sociology of Science and Technology
Application of digital technology in all aspects of human life has not only changed but has actually transformed human life. Digitization, by enabling new types of innovation and creativity in particular domains, has not only revolutionized communication but has also enhanced support to traditional methods. Digital transformation affects not only government, business, mass communication, art or even medicine but also leisure in a significant manner.

Digital transformation not only refers to the concept of `going paperless´ but also visiting places virtually and making use of leisure in manners hitherto unknown and unpracticed. One major consequence of digital transformation is the creation of electronic and virtual communities that have totally changed the character of leisure. The global computer network of the Internet is beginning to make radical changes in the way consumers conduct their economic, social, leisure and professional lives.

This session may also examine that how leading electronic communities that are revolutionizing the way consumers plan vacations, watch sports, find jobs and conduct other key aspects of their lives including leisure. The changes brought about by digital transformation offer not only significant opportunities but also the threats ahead. The session would examine if this revolution is a boon or a bane.

La aplicación de tecnología en todos los aspectos de la vida humana, no solamente, ha cambiado, sino, ha transformado la vida humana. La digitalización ha permitido nuevos tipos de innovación y creatividad a nivel indivudual; así como también, la revolución de las comunicaciones y de los métodos de aplicación de ellas.

La transformación digital no solo afecta a gobiernos, la economía, la comunicación de masa, las artes o la medicina, sino también, al tipo de ocio relizado en la actualidad; visitando, de forma virtual, lugares, por citar solo un ejemplo. Internet está empezando a hacer cambios radicales en la manera en que los consumidores planean vacaciones, miran deportes, encuentran trabajos, y manejan otros aspectos claves de sus vidas.

Los cambios que se están creado ofrecen, no solo, oportunidades, sino también, amenazas. Son estos cambios y potenciales escenarios de transformación que se centrará la presente sesión, con el fin de debatir y analizar los niveles y tipos de oportunidades o desventajas que desprenden las transformaciones digitales antes mencionadas.

L´application de la technologie numérique dans tous les aspects de la vie humaine n`a pas seulement changé, mais a réellement transformé la vie humaine. La numérisation, en permettant de nouveaux types d`innovation et de créativité dans des domaines particuliers, n`a pas seulement révolutionné la communication, mais a également renforcé le soutien aux méthodes traditionnelles. La transformation numérique affecte non seulement le gouvernement,les entreprises, la communication de masse, l`art ou même la médecine, mais aussi de loisirs d`une manière significative.

La transformation numérique ne concerne pas seulement la question de l´abdication du papier , mais met aussi en place la possibilité de rendre visite virtuellement , en faisant usage de loisirs dans les façons jusqu`ici inconnues. Une conséquence majeure de la transformation numérique est la création de communautés électroniques et virtuelles qui ont totalement changé le caractère de loisirs. Le réseau informatique mondial de l`Internet commence à faire des changements radicaux dans la façon dont les consommateurs peuvent exercer leurs droits économiques, sociaux, de loisirs et vie professionnelle.

Cette session peut également examiner la façon dont les communautés virtuelles révolutionnent la façon des consomateurs pour planifier leurs vacances, leurs activités esportives, rencontrent un emploi, et conduisent les aspects clefs de leurs vies, y compris les loisirs. Les changements apportés par les transformations numériques offrent non seulement des opportunités significatives, mais aussi les menaces à venir. La session examinera si cette révolution est une aubaine ou un fléau.


New work in the study of science, Technology and knowledge


RC23 Business Meeting


Risk, disaster, and sustainability: Remodelling on Fukushima

The sociology of science and technology, together with environmental sociology, risk sociology, and the sociology of disaster, has highlighted the importance of uncertainty in social decision-making on critical social issues in the science-technology-society interface. Based on this research tradition, this session attempts to illuminate afresh a complicated social process emerging from extreme events such as nuclear power plant failures, tsunami, earthquakes, and any other unexpected technological failure. The focus of the session is on the complicated social processes, made up of heterogeneous agents with different stakes and risk perception, involved in dealing with extreme events and/or their combination.

How does risk change into disaster? How could the precautionary principle work to prevent risk from changing into disaster? How could we conceive technological trajectories leading to sustainability beyond risk and disaster? How could we maintain the quality of the public sphere where heterogeneous agents such as governmental, industrial, academic and citizen sector are engaged in social decision-making on critical social issues? And, in particular, how could we keep social justice in all these complicated social processes? This session welcome sociological studies that challenge these questions, be it empirical or theoretical, Fukushima-related or not, from many varieties of experiences and viewpoints.


Science institutions and society: Mutual interactions and adaptations


The New Frontiers Of The Digital Divide: Technological Inequalities And Social Justice

The increasing penetration rate of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in general and of the Internet in particular, has led to a profound academic debate regarding the social function of this type of technology. Within the field of Internet usage-associated risks, specialists have paid special attention to the problem of the Digital Divide. Originally, studies on the Digital Divide focused on the inequalities arising as a result of the differences in access to and use of the Internet. In this regard, their interest focused on the geographic and social inequalities between citizens who use and citizens who do not use the Internet.

The current debate takes these studies as reference in order to inquire into the consequences of certain uses of the Internet. Given that the Internet penetration rate is unequal, what consequences might this have in terms of equality and social justice? Digital inequality focuses on the inequalities arising as a result of the advantages provided by certain uses of the Internet. The aim of this session is to discuss from an empirical, theoretical and methodological perspective the in-egalitarian effect of the use of the services and tools offered by Information and Communication Technologies. We particularly seek papers that focus on the following issues: The extent to which Information and Communication Technologies imply a problem for social inequality? To what extent do they pose a new challenge for social justice? Internet.


The social and environmental impacts of nanotechnologies and other emerging technologies

This session will examine the range of social environmental and ethical challenges posted by ‘nanotechnlogy’ and other new technologies. While consumer nano-products available on the market now exceed 1,000 and applications of other new technologies are similarly extensive, there is little public awareness of these developments. The proposed session will focus on the important issues regarding responsibility, accountability and ownership in relation to nanotech and other technologies. Papers dealing with issues of potential risk, inequality, social justice, governance and decision-making and the role of the media in framing such issues are particularly welcomed.




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International Sociological Association
November 2012