Accepted paper:

Meeting the diversified demands for knowledge: reconciling modernist and reflexive values for knowledge production


Lisa Verwoerd (Athena Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Eva-Maria Kunseler (PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency)
Barbara Regeer (Athena Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Disussing quality principles for knowledge production helps scientists to open up institutionalized modernist routines to the values of reflexive knowledge production. This supports scientists to reconcile conflicting demands of society on their role and on knowledge for complex societal problems.

Paper long abstract:

Societal developments and the increased complexity of contemporary societal problems have diversified the roles scientists play in public debates. Scholars argue for a move towards a more reflexive research tradition where scientists function as change agents to better accommodate the complexity of societal issues. Epistemological norms and values for this tradition, however, seemingly conflict with that of the more dominant modernist tradition, where scientists fill the role of scientific expert. The reflexive tradition calls for participatory and deliberative approaches to co-create socially robust knowledge. Whereas the modernist tradition values objective fact-based knowledge and calls for distant and independent expert-driven approaches. How do researchers fulfil the often institutionalized demands for the modernist tradition of knowledge production, whilst meeting the societal demands for a more open and reflexive knowledge production process? In context of a public knowledge organisation we empirically studied how researchers navigate and balance the seemingly conflicting demands of both research traditions and their roles. Results show researchers are inclined to return to the better-known modernist tradition and emphasize their role as scientific expert when the perceived tension between both traditions is high. We suggest a set of quality principles as heuristic to support researchers in reconciling the values of both traditions. Our study reveals how discussing these quality principles help in explicating the assumptions underneath both research traditions and trigger the opening up of institutionalized modernist routines to the values of the reflexive tradition, allowing scientists to meet the diversified demands for knowledge on complex societal problems.

panel F03
Scientists - agents under construction