From intellectual exercise to scientific agency
Scientific contributions, building on or breaking with existing knowledge and understanding, provide novel ways of perceiving and relating to our sociomaterial surroundings. However, what exactly does it mean to make a contribution to science? What is understood to be a contribution in general, and in science studies or SSH (social sciences and humanities) scholarly fields more specifically?
Learning to craft contributions is intertwined with becoming a researcher. From the contribution of a doctoral dissertation to the increasing demand for impact beyond academia, all researchers are socialized into disciplinarily curated ways of thinking about their specific topic and field-specific ways of posing questions. Scientific contributions thus speak to our own discipline(s), but contributions should also extend beyond it. Research is expected to have policy impact, reach practitioners, solve everyday issues and address the public while also involving those communities in productive conversations and long-lasting collaborative relations. Also significant to STS is the reflexive emphasis on the ethical and political commitments of conducting critical research about knowledge-making and its associated world-views.
Are we always expected to contribute both to and with our disciplinary field? How to communicate the background epistemic-ontological commitments that inform our analytical gaze? How to engage, retool or break with the intellectual core of our field? How to theorize in a credible way? How to productively connect the particular (of a case study) to the general, both on the empirical as well as on the conceptual level? Are new problematizations ever truly novel? And are there alternatives to the standard research article as a contribution?
The purpose of the 2024 FSSTS science studies symposium is thus to help the participants develop some control over questions related to making contributions in their work by
- improving the (conceptual) understanding of what all makes a scientific contribution, and what the various ways of making contributions are,
- providing an arena for participants to present their work with the specific perspective of explicating how their work either makes or aims at making a contribution to the scholarly fields their work is directed to.
Epistemic communities have a dual role in relation to making a contribution, functioning as a critic and censor as well as providing the foundations on which novel claims and understandings can be built. Thus, the symposium convenes a scholarly community with both of these qualities, and provides possibilities for creating new partnerships and alliances as well as providing a sounding board for heterogeneous articulations of research findings.
Finding ways to make a contribution is also fundamental to fulfilling the demand of producing ‘deliverables’. The symposium provides a platform for considering the different dimensions of scientific contributions, ranging from empirical and theoretical contributions to struggles with contributions as well as alternative ways of making scientific contributions.
We welcome presentations based on
- unfinished and incomplete research: its planned (or search for its) contribution
- finished work: how the contribution was realized, into what and in what ways does it make a contribution
- artistic/other explorations of alternative ways of making a contribution to a scientific field
The 2024 science studies symposium welcomes contributions in interrelated disciplines, including but not limited to STS, philosophy of science, sociology, and anthropology, preferably with a topical connection to the interaction of science, technology, and society.
Symposium organization and presentations
We invite individual presentations (15 min) relating to the CFP theme. Presentations can be A) topically independent, or B) directed to predefined themes (see below). Please submit an abstract of max 250 words and indicate possible preferred theme to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for these submissions is April 1, 2024.
- Bringing new empirical phenomena into science studies
- How to make theoretical and conceptual contributions
- What constitutes a methodological contribution
- Thinking about social impact of scientific contributions, both in the scientific community as well as in society
- Struggling with scientific contributions / questioning or refusing to make one
- Alternative ways of making scientific contributions, such as artistic exploration of scientific themes
- The relation between scientific contribution and advocating / activism