Accepted Paper:

Co-production, intervention and experimentation in science governance: STS and Future Earth  


Eleanor Hadley Kershaw (University of Nottingham)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores STS intervention in the governance of global environmental change (GEC) research, considering the author's own co-productive intervention in Future Earth (a major international GEC research initiative) and the forms of STS intervention already taking place in that context.

Paper long abstract:

Co-design and co-production are increasingly advocated as methods or frameworks for involving non-academic actors in research and governance. Proponents argue that when addressing grand challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainability, co-produced research will better engage with societal needs and concerns. However, co-production is also a core STS concept, signifying the tacit co-constitution of science/knowledge and social order (Jasanoff, 2004). To what extent are these different understandings compatible, and what are the implications for intervention?

This paper explores STS intervention in science governance by considering the meanings and practices of co-production in Future Earth, a major international research initiative on global environmental change (GEC) and sustainability, unique in its ambition to co-design/co-produce new GEC research at a global scale. Drawing on a qualitative case study of Future Earth, the author reflects on her own co-productive intervention in Future Earth (for example, through focus groups conducted in the context of committee meetings), and the ways in which STS concepts were (already) shaping what co-production means and what Future Earth is through the involvement of critical social scientists in its governance structures.

While the polysemy and multiplicity of co-production can provoke tensions, it can also be seen as an opportunity if we consider Future Earth, co-production, and intervention as an ongoing (series of) experiment(s). This might require new thinking about how to organise, conduct and value research and its outcomes, with an increased emphasis on fostering, appreciating and productively working with diversity and institutional indeterminacy.

Panel C14
Smugglers, idiots and loyal cheats: situated intervention as method out of control