STS symposium 2017: Experimentation and Evidence
Place: House of Science and Letters, Helsinki.
The Finnish Society for Science and Technology Studies and The Finnish Association for Medical Law and Ethics; Funded by The Federation of Finnish Learned Societies
Barbara Prainsack, King’s College London
Michael Guggenheim, Goldsmiths, University of London
Ilpo Helén, University of Eastern Finland
Eeva Luhtakallio, University of Tampere
The 2017 symposium for science and technology studies titled ”Experimentation and Evidence” calls for papers examining the ontological, epistemological and practical issues in the process of creating, validating, and revisioning knowledge.
Science studies have rendered science as a social and cultural practice. Classic STS studies have described upstream “truth factories” such as laboratories and the processes of producing knowledge, while others have taken a downstream perspective, to examine the social and political effects of such knowledge. However, increasingly making and arguing for a political, administrative, or corporate decision requires more often than not drawing on items of knowledge (conventionally called ‘facts’) for support (legitimacy, justification), regardless of whether the decision concerns a public issue or is made in a laboratory, court of law, financial or medical institution, or in some other closed social domain.
What makes all this very interesting is that in many of these occasions that require choosing, the ‘facts’ are based on experimental methodology or research design. Actually, experimental methodology may well be in contradiction with the common idea that decision making should be based on reliable facts. As the experiments in our focus now tend to be on the cutting edge of knowledge, resulting ‘facts’ may be less secure than expected.
How, then, does one arrive at a credible ‘fact’ in any of these contexts? What constitutes, through which kind of hierarchies of authority and lobbying, evidence in different contexts, and how do ‘facts’ translate when traveling across epistemic boundaries between different social domains? How and why is the relevance of experimentation and experimental research design in different social domains argued for? How have the relations between experimentation and evidence changed historically, and how does the current cultural, intellectual and moral climate (Zeitgeist) influence their interrelation? How do social movements’ knowledge claims relate to mobilizing citizens’ experiences to governmental purposes?