Accepted Paper:

Anticipation as a normative practice. Life science researchers' anticipatory practices between care and managerialism  


Lisa Sigl (University of Vienna)
Maximilian Fochler (University of Vienna)
Ulrike Felt (University of Vienna)

Paper Short Abstract:

Anticipation is seen as central in "good science", as defined by "Responsible Research and Innovation". However, in practice, different forms of anticipation in life science research relate to different normative repertoires, some managerial, some caring, as well as to different temporalities.

Paper long abstract:

"Anticipation", as key dimension of "Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)", is currently often framed as an imperative in the conduct and governance of research. This underlines a long-standing call to think about possible consequences of new knowledge, and about how imagined futures shape the knowledge we produce in the present. What tends to vanish from our view in this perspective is that anticipating itself is a normative practice. Different forms of anticipation relate to different normative repertoires and compete in how research processes are designed.

We show this using the example of the life sciences: while it is a research field that is increasingly called upon to anticipate possible societal futures and related applications (e.g. new drugs, medical treatments), our empirical material suggests that researchers find forms of anticipation that care for societal values (imagining societal implications) very difficult. Rather, within current neoliberal research governance frameworks, researchers tend to align their anticipatory practices with the normative repertoires and temporalities of funding, evaluation, or careers.

Our argument is that rather than making opaque prescriptions, policy initiatives like RRI need to pay more attention to the normative dimensions of the practices they require of researchers, and to how these dimensions blend into the wider dynamics of contemporary neoliberal research governance. It is vital to ask which conditions support which kinds of anticipation.

Panel V03
Expertise, publics and anticipations