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STS for societal transformations: cross-disciplinary visions and realities 
Chris Foulds (Anglia Ruskin University)
Lara Houston (Anglia Ruskin University)
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Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

Our session focusses on the experiences of doing inter- and trans-disciplinary research in response to societal challenges. How do their enactments differ in practice from expectations and visions of normative research? What lies beyond the ideal-typical inter- and trans-disciplinary interfaces?

Long Abstract:

Inter- and trans-disciplinary research is increasingly motivated by societal challenges, i.e. large-scale problems deemed too complex to be addressed by one discipline, such as climate breakdown or public health (Ludwig et al., 2022). Indeed, a ‘normative turn’ in research and innovation policy (Uyarra et al. 2019) has prompted researchers to form such collaborations for the purposes of seeding, steering and/or accelerating transformation (or transition) processes.

In this formulation, the challenge provides the core logic for how epistemic communities interface (Barry, 2004). However, this conceals a plurality of enactments of cross-disciplinary thinking and practice, which often remain hidden (Vienni-Baptista et al., 2022). Our panel focusses on exploring the nuanced ways that epistemic communities interface when working under challenge-oriented conditions, on transformative change – when expectations meet the messy realities of practice (Silvast & Foulds, 2022).

We are interested in, for example:

- How are ideal-types (e.g. multi-stakeholder helixes, trans-disciplinary experiments, STEM-SSH interfaces) complexified or transgressed through lived experiences?

- How does experimentality practically unfold where it is intended to deliver a pilot, demonstrator and/or policy-focussed outcomes?

- How do differing ideas of rigour and robustness play out?

- How do visions of what inter-disciplinarity can and should do conflict across broad coalitions seeking transformative change?

- How are methodologies appropriated across disciplines?

- What role do the Humanities and/or the Critical Social Sciences take?

- How are policy priorities on science and technology embedded within policy/funding programmes?

- How do different ‘theories of change’ contribute to experiences of inter-disciplinarity?

- How does the use of projects as a vehicle for change impact upon inter- and trans-disciplinary relationships?

- How do normative evaluation regimes make sense of change-oriented cross-disciplinary practices?

- How could we generatively critique disciplinary organisation itself?

Accepted papers: