(D03)
Contested gates -- epistemic and social implications of opening knowledge production and science communication
Location Bowland Hall Main Room
Date and Start Time 28 Jul, 2018 at 09:30
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Andreas Wenninger (Technical University of Munich) email
  • Werner Reichmann (University of Konstanz) email
  • Sascha Dickel (Johannes Gutenberg University) email

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Short abstract

This panel discusses the concept of 'open science' as a contested concept and fragile practice. It analyzes the epistemic, social and cultural implications of open and closed scientific practices, communities, and processes. Therefore, it focuses on the actual gatekeeping within science.

Long abstract

Over the last 10 years, scientists have increasingly been encouraged to 'open' science. Frequently, the notion of Open Science is associated with euphoric hopes and optimistic political visions: Open Science is more efficient; delivers better results; overcomes the alienation between science and society; and helps to eliminate global inequalities. In turn, skeptics emphasize possible risks of dissoluted boundaries if the gates of science are opened, e.g. the politicization or medialization of science and the creation of dysfunctional incentives.

This panel brings together STS-scholars who analyze Open Science as a contested concept and practice. It calls for papers dealing with the epistemic, social and cultural implications of open and closed scientific communities and practices.

(1) Therefore, the panel discusses not primarily open publication processes (like in the public discussion) but rather includes the opening/closure of a wide variety of scientific realms and practices, like research in the laboratory, collecting/processing data, discussing scientific matters, creating technology, etc. Which gates are opened? Which are closed? Who or what works and in which ways as gatekeepers?

(2) The panel analyzes the role of new socio-technical tools and environments (e.g. digital platforms) that may help (or even allow for) opening up science for new social groups. How do they engage and participate in research and science communication? How do they adopt research practices?

(3) The panel asks how processes of gatekeeping are actually done in scientific practice and focuses on possible unintended consequence of opening and closing science. Can Open Science lead to new closures?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

How can we do bovine Tuberculosis science? Boundary objects, method standardisation and divergent viewpoints in a 'Badger Found Dead Survey'

Author: Jess Phoenix (Lancaster University) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores open science related to badgers and bovine Tuberculosis. Ethnographic findings detail how the use of 'boundary objects' in open science can reduce contestation between actors and open gates in the field, whilst only partly opening fragile gates to the laboratory and politics.

Long abstract

Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) is a controversy in England, somewhat fuelled by the inconsistency of scientific research regarding the involvement of badgers in disease transmission. I undertook ethnographic fieldwork on a 'badger found dead survey' that aimed to determine the prevalence of Mycobacterium bovis (M bovis- bacteria that causes bTB) in badgers. The survey was a collective endeavour between divergent actors: badger cull protestors, farmers, vets, microbiologists and badger vaccinators.

This paper examines the survey as an open science project that created an inclusionary network based on the shared goal of understanding the prevalence of M. bovis in badgers. The concepts of boundary objects and method standardisation are woven together with my data to explore why actors picked up dead badgers. This leads into an analysis of gatekeeping of the survey in the field, in the laboratory and in politics. The paper examines how the collection of carcasses was a fully open practice, whilst badger necropsies and the culturing of M bovis remained somewhat closed practices. The fragility of these practices is contrasted with the security that was created by openly sharing the uncertainties of the closed practices.

The paper opens new ways of thinking about and doing science in order to show how and why open science can be an object for progressive conversation between divergent viewpoints. The application of the concept of boundary objects leads to a consideration of how scientific studies can produce generalisable findings and bridge social worlds by challenging who opens and closes different gates.

Hype, risk, modesty, and Frequently Asked Questions: opening up (new spaces in) science and closing down controversy?

Author: Kaya Akyuz (University of Vienna) email
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Short abstract

What do Frequently Asked Questions mean in science? How do they contribute to opening up science and closing down further debate at the same time? This paper considers FAQs as an unusual activity in science and tracks their role in the making and unmaking of social science genomics as a new field.

Long abstract

The use of genomics techniques in quantitative social science research is a phenomenon of the post-genomics era; however, it is also a continuation of a long lasting and controversial relationship between biology and the social sciences. The incipient terms of sociogenomics, genoeconomics and genopolitics under the "social science genomics" umbrella reflect the possibility of new disciplinary formations as much as novel approaches to sociology, economics and political science, respectively. As part of these emergences, an unusual practice among scientists—producing lists of Frequently Asked Questions about research articles—marks the scientists' efforts towards an open social science genomics. This practice is tightly linked to the framing of hype and risk around social science genomics research and the broader controversy surrounding the scientists' efforts in ways that are both opening up this contested emerging field to broader communities and securing its future with a pursuit of epistemic modesty through answers to questions. In this paper, I track the use of FAQs in science and elaborate on what this practice means for different types of academic work. Furthermore, I consider FAQs as part of the multitude of practices of the Social Science Genetic Association Consortium to understand how opening up could also contribute to closing down, in this case the controversy surrounding genetics research into social outcomes and behavior.

Inclusion into the communication system of science - self-archiving and the use of pre-prints in astronomy and mathematics

Author: Niels Taubert (Bielefeld University) email
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Short abstract

The contribution focuses on the role of green OA for the inclusion of authors and readers in the communication system of science. The analysis show that the routines of both roles are complementary allowing a specific but restricted use of pre-published research.

Long abstract

In astronomy and mathematics a large share of publications is freely accessible online via disciplinary or subject-specific repositories. Referring to an empirical study of including bibliometrical analysis and in-depth interviews, the contribution examines the role of self-archived manuscripts in the communication system of the two disciplines. The analysis shows that repositories act as a second channel of disseminating research in addition to journals. Moreover, it reconstructs how repositories are being used by authors and readers. In both fields authors even-handedly self-archive their manuscripts in part not only before the publication appears in a journal but even before peer review is completed. This happens for different reasons, including the improvement of accessibility, the protection of priority, and to increase the chances of getting the research published in a journal. Early self-archiving before completion of peer review de facto bypasses the evaluation procedure which is a precondition for trust in published research. Therefore, it is asked whether readers deal with such pre-prints in a specific way, taking their potential non-peer-reviewed nature into account. The reconstruction shows that the usability of self-archived manuscripts results from specific routines among the readers: They interpret contextual information of pre-prints, undertake tests of plausibility, use the author name as a proxy for trust, limit the citation of pre-prints, and distinguish between trustworthy and non-trustworthy components of a pre-print. Thus, the routines of the readers are complementary to the routines of authors and are - to some extent - shaped by epistemic characteristics of the particular field.

Opening science to civic society: the case of stakeholder committees in research organisations in France

Author: Lucile Ottolini (INRA / INERIS) email
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Short abstract

This paper studies an institutional innovation: the creation of stakeholder committees in public research organizations. Paying attention ''to rules and rule making'' of stakeholder committees in 4 cases we will explore if it changed the scientific governance in the institutions concerned.

Long abstract

This paper draws on the analysis of an institutional innovation: the creation of stakeholder committees in public research organisations. In France, this innovation dates back from the 2000's. The official objective is to open up the governance to members of the 'civic society' in order to increase research pluralism and to improve the alignment between 'societal needs' and production of scientific and technical knowledge.

So far, such opening up has not been studied. As these stakeholder committees have now ten years experiences, successes and failures, the time is ripe to thoroughly analyse this institutional innovation. Can such committees influence knowledge production and orientations? Does it change the sociology of people involved in scientific decisions? What practices does it promote in scientific institutions? To explore those general questions, this paper pays attention "to rules and rule making" of stakeholder committees (Epstein 1998, Fischer 2000, Weisman 1998, Frickel & Moore 2005). Here we focus on specific rules: accreditation as a representative (people and organizations) - hearing (roles and knowledges) - file process - agendas setting - relationships to other institutional governance parts.

Our comparative study draws on the analysis of 4 stakeholder committees settled as part of scientific governance in French expertise and research institutions in sanitary and environmental fields. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected by participant observatory, interviews and archival work. The results shows that public engagement is highly shaped by rules processes.

Rethinking openness in science: systemic implications of reintermediation replacing mechanisms of transparency

Author: Alexander Gerber (Rhine-Waal University / INSCICO) email
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Short abstract

This paper introduces the new model of "Reintermediation" in Science Communication, replacing traditional "gatekeeping" in a more systemic context of RRI. New 'pseudo-intermediaries', cultivated by institutionalised science, redefine issues of openness, transparency, and accountability of science.

Long abstract

This paper suggests introducing a new theoretical model of "Reintermediation" in Science Communication -- the structural loss of journalists as intermediaries in the knowledge-transfer processes, and their replacement by pseudo-intermediaries. As business practice and economics research have shown, the expected Disintermediation actually didn't happen but rather led to different forms of Reintermediation. If we can expect this to also happen to science (communication), both the challenges and the potential solutions for what we used to call "science communication" will need to be reconsidered fundamentally.

The traditional roles of gatekeepers in science communication are increasingly rendered redundant due to disruptive changes in information behavior and thus media-economic pressures. From a systemic perspective, Reintermediation raises urgent questions in the context of "Responsible Research and Innovation" (RRI), particularly since the new pseudo-intermediaries are often funded and cultivated by institutionalised science itself, and constitute a danger and/or an opportunity for openness / transparency / accountability etc. in science.

The suggested paper will refer to big data and scientometric studies such as the first full-text content analysis of every science press release ever published digitally in German academia (ca. half a million releases in total).

The idea of Reintermediation in Science Communication was first introduced by the proposing author in a keynote to the European Science Journalism Conference 2017 (Copenhagen / DK). The theoretical model is yet unpublished.

Alexander Gerber is Chair of Science Communication at RWU. The author is Project Lead or Work Package Leader in four Horizon 2020 projects on RRI.

The role of research infrastructure formation strategies in opening and closing science

Authors: Andrea Botero (University of Oulu) email
Helena Karasti (University of Oulu) email
Elena Parmiggiani (University of Oulu / Norwegian Uni. of Science and Technology) email
Karen S. Baker (University of Oulu / University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) email
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Short abstract

Environmental sciences are a fertile ground for the formation of research infrastructures. We discuss how different strategies of infrastructure formation configure openness, how they contribute to the processes of gatekeeping, and tend to either close or open scientific knowledge production.

Long abstract

Research infrastructures (RI) form part of scientific knowledge production processes (Karasti et al. 2016) by combining technological resources, data products, and services with research practices, organizational arrangements, and institutional policies. Large-scale initiatives in the last two decades of building various kinds of RIs (a.k.a. cyberinfrastructures) promise profound transformations in the ways scientific collaboration is achieved (Edwards et al. 2007). RIs are seen as important for exploring increasingly complex research questions and addressing grand challenges (Chabbi & Loescher 2017) that require increasing collaboration (Jirotka et al. 2006; Lee et al. 2010) as well as new forms of research based on data sharing (Atkins et al. 2003; Hey et al. 2009).

Field-based environmental sciences are a fertile ground for development of these infrastructures (Baker & Millerand 2012). As more RIs are being planned and deployed, Open Science is usually rallied as either a goal or an imperative that demands these types of infrastructures. However what is meant by "open" and "science" and how they are to be achieved, is usually left implicit by many of these plans. In this presentation we use an infrastructuring approach (Karasti & Blomberg 2018) to look closer at the formation strategies and various configurations for data, science and technology in three cases of established and emergent RIs for environmental sciences. We will use these examples to discuss how different RI formation strategies configure openness, how they contribute to the processes of gatekeeping and create consequences - often unintended - of opening and or closing science.

Valuing open science: the significance of openness between digital platformization and societal legitimation

Author: Clemens Bluemel (DZHW) email
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Short abstract

In this paper I explore how open science is established as a mode of valuation through the interplay between novel digital platforms on the one hand, and specific modes of interpretation (that is, material practices of ordering knowledge) on the other.

Long abstract

In this paper I explore how open science is established as a mode of valuation for scientific output through the interplay between novel digital platforms (and their metric traces) on the one hand, and specific modes of interpretation (that is, material practices of ordering knowledge) on the other. The efforts of communicating science to novel audiences have not only been fostered through the scholarly community, but have also been taken up and triggered by novel digital platforms which harvest data about how certain pieces of scholarly communication have been taken up by other societal audiences. I argue that the socio-political significance of these novel "open" digital communication channels rests on how they are interpreted in scholarly and political discourse and the ways through which they interact. Based on studies into the scholarly discourses of science communication in scientometrics and informetrics I aim to show that metric artefacts of scholarly digital platforms resonate well within regimes of scholarly interpretation that establish correlations as a guiding epistemic practice for ordering and classifying channels of communication. The scholarly and scientometric discourse on novel media channels, however, has not only its own logics, but reaches significance as it corresponds to concurrent figures of argumentation in the socio-political organization of science and science policy in which quantified descriptions of digital media channels become closely associated with what is regarded as the societal impact of science.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.