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Making and (un)doing digital health and welfare transformations: normative tensions and action repertoires of embedded STS researchers 
Rik Wehrens (Erasmus University)
Eliana Bergamin (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Gigi Vissers (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
Margot Kersing (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
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Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

STS-scholars are increasingly working as ‘embedded researchers’ in health and technology consortia. In three sessions we 1) explore normative tensions and action repertoires; 2) identify modes of intervention; 3) develop a shared set of sensititivites to more consciously navigate dilemmas.

Long Abstract:

As healthcare systems in many European countries are facing workforce issues and an ageing population, policymakers and technology developers put their faith in an alleged digital health revolution in which integrated patient information is available through advanced analytics. Such optimistic techsolutionist narratives stress the transformative potential of digital health technologies for almost all aspects of care. At the funding level, these narratives lead to a trend of large-scale consortia in which technology developers, clinicians, managers, policymakers, and other stakeholders are expected to collaborate. Increasingly, the involvement of social scientists in these consortia is actively encouraged to enhance the societal relevance and acceptability of the innovations that are developed, tested, or implemented.

STS-scholars are increasingly working as ‘embedded researchers’ in such consortia. This raises various questions and struggles. How can we as STS-scholars contribute to responsible development by acting with hospital actors, patients, policymakers, technicians and industry in productive ways? Which tensions can emerge between different goals and interests of stakeholders, including ourselves? What are emerging risks and normative complexities for STS-scholars and how can we mitigate or work around these? And what are moments to withdraw from participating and how to decide on this?

In this three-panel-series, we reflect on such questions and experimentally tease out potential ways forward. First, we invite presentations on empirical research projects in which scholars reflect on their involvement in technology consortia in health and welfare, including experienced normative tensions. Second, we organize a dialogue session to tease out more general modes of intervention and action repertoires to enable responsible and ethical innovation. Third, we organize a workshop in which we translate these insights into a set of sensitivities aimed to help novel researchers to more consciously navigate some of the dilemmas and normative complexities and allow them to intervene more effectively.

Accepted contributions: