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Accepted Contribution:

The roles and responsibilities of plant scientists in the governance of genome-edited crops: what roles and responsibilities for STS can we propose?  
Aisha So (Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University)

Short abstract:

Plant scientists were found to demarcate their roles and responsibilities in a traditional way and show low reflexivity when discussing the controversial topic of genome-edited crops. Moving forward, we see a role for STS to promote constructive interdisciplinary dialogue in such polarised contexts.

Long abstract:

The societal debate on the use of genome-edited crops (GE crops) has been polarised from the start. While policymakers struggle to democratically resolve the dilemma, plant scientists have been criticised for taking up advocative roles and thereby risking further polarisation. We examined how plant scientists themselves demarcate their roles and responsibilities, both in general and within this controversial context, and to what extent their demarcation aligns with traditional (e.g., linear model of innovation) or forward-looking (e.g., responsible research and innovation) models of science-responsibility. We found, first, that the perceived roles and responsibilities of the interviewees were persistently aligned with the traditional ideal of the scientist as value-free, as separate from society, and as producing knowledge that leads to unproblematic societal benefits through industry. Secondly, while our respondents were quite reflexive when discussing their roles and responsibilities in general, this reflexivity tended to be dispersed when confronted with the polarised debate on GE crops. We hypothesise that this decreased reflexivity is a product of the long-term polarisation of the GM/GE debate during which plant scientists have been in a kind of ‘echo chamber’; reflecting and reinforcing each other’s views on both GE crops and their own roles and responsibilities. Specifically in controversial contexts such as this, therefore, we see a role for the STS community to engage with natural scientists. We believe that interdisciplinary interaction could help to better align the perspectives of both groups on the topic of science-responsibility and aid natural scientists in contributing more constructively to polarised debates.

Combined Format Open Panel P317
Calling controversy, again: what role for STS?
  Session 1 Thursday 18 July, 2024, -