This panel explores the pathways from individual to population and back, as they are generated in public health science and programmes. We are concerned with how populations are constructed, and what population data is used for; with who is counted and what counts - and why, and to what ends.
This panel will explore the pathways from individual to population and back, as they are generated in public health science and programmes. We suggest doing so through the prism of accountability. Public health science is charged with accounting for populations. It does so based on data derived from individuals; in turn, the aggregated data must be found useful for individual persons. Also, public health science and policy must be accountable to society. We are concerned with how populations are constructed, and what population data comes to be used for. In the process, questions emerge regarding what is counted and what counts. Role conflicts may be salient here, such as when individuals are citizens, research subjects, patients, and perhaps researchers or policymakers in their own right. Relevant to all of these issues are the symbolic and material processes through which public health research and policy are represented and understood as legitimate and authoritative - i.e., how public health is made accountable. Yet, at the same time, questions endure around who, exactly, involved actors should be held accountable to, and why. In convening this panel, we simultaneously wish to engage scholars in debates about the relationship between public health and STS. Which areas of public health need STS attention? What can STS learn by moving away from spectacular technologies, laboratories and high-profile science, towards more mundane practices of population-making? Indeed, how can conceptual traditions, empirical insights, and methodological tools from public health propel different forms of innovation within STS itself?