Accepted Paper:

Opening up secret science: Negotiating boundaries between the military and "non traditional" sources of knowledge  


Andrew James (University of Manchester)
Duncan Thomas

Paper long abstract:

The conduct of "Secret Science" in the defence field has generated distinctive cultures, institutions and organisational forms that have structured the selection of sources of scientific and technological knowledge and processes of engagement with the wider world (Balmer, 2012; Reppy, 1999). This paper will consider some of the issues that arise when the boundary between secrecy and openness is renegotiated.

"Zones of interaction" (Cloud, 2001) have always existed between civilian and military institutions with complex engagement between government defence research establishments, companies and some academics. However, the last two decades have seen increasing efforts by the military to increase engagement beyond the traditional institutions of Secret Science. We explore the tensions and challenges that are arising as the military seek to engage with an agenda of 'openness' as well as hitherto peripheral or so-called 'non-traditional' sources of science and scientific advice.

We show how this has prompted debates over the appropriate limits to opening-up; how to open-up; sharing and transparency of scientific needs, strategies, results and intellectual property; and mechanisms of engagement as well as those who should be engaged, and those who should be excluded. The paper draws on interviews undertaken with officials responsible for S&T in the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) as well as scientists in academic, intermediary and industrial organisations that are supplying S&T to the MOD. We focus on two contrasting fields of application (missiles and mental health) that have very different knowledge bases, mechanisms of engagement and degrees of openness to wider scientific communities.

Panel C4
Non-concerns about science and technology and within STS