Accepted Paper:

Co-producing knowledge and publics amidst controversy: analysis of an EU expert network on unconventional hydrocarbons development  


Leonie Reins (Tilburg University)
Kärg Kama (University of Birmingham)
Aleksandra Lis (Adam Mickiewicz University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper engages with the idiom of co-production and provides a more fine-grained understanding of processes through which authoritative knowledge claims and new publics are co-produced in the context of a highly politicized controversy over exploration of unconventional hydrocarbons.

Paper long abstract:

To date, social sciences have devoted remarkably little attention to processes of co-production related to shale gas and shale oil extraction. More critically, there is little analysis of the challenges of creating and formulating knowledge that would resonate as relevant, useful and authoritative for practices of various actors, such as industry experts, government officials, civil society activists and local communities; and as such would co-produce different scales at which shale gas could be governed.

In this paper, we examine a particular EU-led experiment, the European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction, in producing expert knowledge on shale energy development amidst heated controversy, by exploring the idiom of co-production with conceptual insights from across Anthropology, Geography, Law, and Social Studies of Science and Technology. Drawing on our first-hand observations as expert participants representing the social sciences, this paper provides an in-depth ethnographic account of the UH-Network by reporting on its history and initial progress made over the first year of its three years of intended activity. We explain why it proved so difficult for the EU authorities to channel knowledge production into a set of credible, widely applicable knowledge claims, with the result that only particular, very limited types of knowledge claims were stabilized as facts and data before the network was prematurely closed down in early 2016 amidst escalating controversy. Our analysis thereby also seeks to understand why the UH-Network failed to both become an "epistemic authority" and deliver meaningful deliberation and participation for so many involved actors.

Panel D02
Challenging formal arrangements and decision-making in the energy sector