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Calling controversy, again: what role for STS? 
Karen Kastenhofer (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
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Combined Format Open Panel

Short Abstract:

How can we, as STS scholars, best contribute to “making and doing transformations” regarding policy processes that are accompanied by expert controversies? This session builds on past controversy studies and engagement with controversial settings, while also focusing on new insights and ideas.

Long Abstract:

With the new proposal of the European Commission for regulating agribiotechnology, expert controversies have arisen once again, feeding into publics’ opinions, consultation processes and debates among stakeholders. Many of the arguments and argumentative rationales on ‘both sides’ of the alleged ‘two camps’ seem all too familiar. Yet, some details have also changed. Debates seem to focus rather on expectations (most prominently: to help adapting to climate change) and their contestation than on potential risks regarding human health or ecosystems. The new genomic techniques are perceived, at least by some, as game changers. The former broad funding of ELSI research as complementary research into ethical, legal and social implications, has not yet been taken up again at national or international levels. Participation has so far been restricted to one consultation process organized by the European Commission in spring 2022. And us, the former ELSI researchers – scholars from science and technology studies and technology assessment – have meanwhile put forward a Post-ELSI paradigm (cp. Balmer et al. 2015) and reflected on our practices, ambitions and achievements (exemplarily, Balmer et al. 2016, Calvert and Marris 2020). We have started analytical programs and detailed discussions regarding our own roles as policy advisors (exemplarily, Bauer and Kastenhofer 2019). But where does this leave us with the newly forming controversy? How can we, as STS and TA scholars, best contribute to “making and doing transformations” in the face of controversial settings? Is it time to ask altogether different kinds of questions? Are there options for mobilizing yet more diverse and comprehensive perspectives on the issues at hand? This combined format panel seeks to assemble presentations on this theme in a traditional session, followed by a discussion session that invites additional ideas and opinions from all participants.

Accepted contributions: