WTMC - Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture

Symposium ‘The Future of Science and Technology Studies’

Date: November 2, 2022
Time: 12:00 AM - 11:59 PM

Symposium by the WTMC graduate school and the University of Twente

On 2 November 2022, 13:00 – 17:00 WTMC and University of Twente organize the symposium ‘The Future of Science and Technology Studies’ at U-Park Hotel on the campus of the University of Twente, Enschede. You are cordially invited to attend this symposium. See below the program for the symposium, theme, abstracts and speakers.


12.00-13.00   Welcome with coffee and sandwiches

13.00-13.15    Introduction by Esther Turnhout, Academic Director of WTMC

13.15-14.00    Towards an intergenerational perspective in STS – Niki Vermeulen, University of Edinburgh

14.00-14.45    Appropriate methods for STS and the appropriateness of methods in STS – Ingmar Lippert, University of Copenhagen

14.45-15.15     Break

15.15-16.00    A turn to theory in STS – Huub Dijstelbloem, University of Amsterdam

16.00-17.00    Plenary discussion moderated by Harro van Lente, chair of the WTMC Board.

Symposium theme

The field of Science & Technology Studies (STS) has contributed to unravelling the many relationships between science, technology, policy, and society. It has detailed how relationships between the production of scientific knowledge and technologies and their use in policy and society are not straightforward or linear, and how the authority of experts is often questioned. Moreover, it has documented how science and technology are not evidently sources of good; they have contributed not only to improving human and non-human lives but have also strengthened unjust and unsustainable practices on global to local scales. In response to these findings, STS has productively engaged to improve the societal and political embedding of science and technology. Particularly, we have seen various proposals in STS to strengthen public engagement in science and technology ensure effectiveness and legitimacy. Yet, urgent and intensifying crises in democracy, inequality, and sustainability – and the role of science and technology in blocking or catalysing needed transformations to cope with these challenges – arguably demand a reorientation of STS.

In part, reorientation involves institutionalization. We have seen the uptake of STS approaches into many social science and interdisciplinary domains, for example in policy studies, sustainability studies, health sciences, technology, design, decolonial studies and many more, and even into research programming. While this marks the success of STS, it also raises challenges as to its relationships to these adjacent fields. At the same time, STS has also arguably, at least partly, grown apart from historically constituting branches such as philosophical, ethical, historical, and other forms of humanities inquiry about science and technology. Reorientation also concerns intellectual identity. Addressing new challenges requires reflection on the values that underpin STS scholarship, the strengths and limitations of established theoretical and methodological approaches, and potential to innovate.

In view of these challenges and opportunities, this symposium addresses two key themes:

  1. STS’s relationship to other scholarly fields and communities:
    Can STS effectively reach out and open up to adjacent disciplines, including new allies, estranged companions as well as old friends? What inter- and transdisciplinary collaborations can be forged? Can and should STS reach out and open up, and what are the potential risks as well as rewards?
  2. STS’s identity and values:
    How can STS position itself in the context of changes in research and policy systems and in response to crises and challenges? What comes after public participation and engagement, and what role can STS play in relation to developments of politicization, activism and social-environmental justice? How can STS go beyond its Western biases, what new topics should be addressed, what methods are appropriate, and what values should drive STS scholarship?

Abstracts and Speakers

Niki Vermeulen – The future of STS: towards an intergenerational perspective

During the plenary on The Futures and Politics of STS in Europe at this summer’s EASST meeting in Madrid, PhD representative Sarah Rose Bieszczad eloquently voiced the concerns of the younger generation of STS researchers, calling for a different type of STS which acts on current environmental crises. A discussion about a more activist STS emerged, showing significant generational differences. Has STS not always been an engaged inter-discipline with roots in activism and does it make sense to go beyond our current ways of working and take to the streets? At first sight the debate displayed how STS has different meanings for different generations, but it also presented an important starting point to (re-)new thinking and practices across generations and bring the history of STS into future perspectives. I argue that WTMC is uniquely placed to create such dialogues and work towards intergenerational perspectives. This includes mentorship, a practice which our PhDs and ECRs are also valuing, which can be shaped as intergenerational mentorship and community care to carry the STS community into the future.

Niki Vermeulen followed WTMC from 2004-2006. After defending her PhD at Maastricht University, she subsequently worked at the University of Vienna, the University of Manchester and now at the University of Edinburgh in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS), while also being a visiting researcher at CWTS Leiden. Niki specialises in science policy and the organisation of research, with an emphasis on collaboration. With a particular interest in the geography and architecture of collaboration, she investigates the places in and across which people are working together. She founded the award-winning walking tour app ‘Curious Edinburgh’ and worked with the RSE Young Academy of Scotland on the ‘Coastal Knowledge Map’. Next to her academic positions, she has experience as a policy advisor and consultant in science and innovation policy, e.g. working for Technopolis Group.

Ingmar Lippert – Appropriate methods for STS and the appropriateness of methods in STS

Ever new crises in science, technology and society prompt STS scholars to call for and develop new methods, appropriate to the situations the researchers aim to engage with. The symposium is interested, for instance, in ‘what comes after public participation and engagement’, and in exploring ‘what methods are appropriate’. We could now turn to experimental methods, inventive methods and otherwise. I approach this concern with methods sideways, not calling for a specific method but for a different relation to our methods. For this, I build on a critique of existing strategies in STS accounts of methods, including (a) borrowing methods from historically constituting branches in the social sciences and humanities as well as from networks of concerned and publicly engaged scholars of science and technology, (b) developing own method-ologies within STS or between STS and adjacent fields, (c) reflexive accounts of the performer of methods and (d) discussions of after method. Informed by this critique, I develop a ‘methodographic’ relation to method. This methodographic relation is characterised by a careful praxeological account of the performativity of our methods-in-action. With that, I argue, STS can circumvent the risks of classical dynamics of disciplining while developing a capacity to collectively assess the appropriateness of methods in STS.

Ingmar Lippert is Associate Professor in the Technologies in Practice Research Group at the IT University of Copenhagen and affiliated with the Chair of Technoscience Studies at Brandenburg University of Technology in Cottbus. He has been a member of the EASST Council between 2010 and 2022 and taught, researched and studied in Asia and Europe, including the National University of Singapore, Bosporus University in Istanbul, Lancaster University and the Institute for Advanced Studies of Science, Technology and Society in Graz. His research interests concern data practices, environmental governance and STS methods; key publications include special issues in Science & Technology Studies on ‘Methodography of Ethnographic Collaboration’, with Julie S Mewes, and ‘Numbering, Numbers and After Numbers’, with Helen Verran, and the Geoforum special section ‘Environmental Management as Situated Practice’ with Franz Krause and Niklas Hartmann. In Germany, Ingmar is currently engaged in facilitating the STS conference process for the ‘STS-Hub.de’, an event designed to build bridges across distinct disciplinary communities inquiring about science and technology.

Huub Dijstelbloem – The Future of STS: A Turn to Theory?

The future of STS looks bright, judging by the plethora of concepts and approaches making their way into other disciplines. Witness, for example, the spread of actor network theory and related notions (mediation, translation). Within STS itself, however, discussions between the different approaches and conceptualizations often seem absent. There remains a lot of room for ‘theory construction’ and discussions about the integration or disintegration of concepts and methodologies, to stimulate the development of ideas. At the same time, STS research is increasingly concerned with issues such as inequality, justice, bias, inclusion/exclusion, violence and discrimination. This is an important step, as there was still progress to be made in this area. However, a theoretical framework to explain political theory and moral theory claims seems to be lacking. So, there is still work to be done, in two related areas. How can STS strengthen the discussion about its theoretical framework(s) while clarifying its political and moral theories?

Huub Dijstelbloem is Professor of Philosophy of Science, Technology and Politics and Scientific Director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the University of Amsterdam. He is co-founder of the Platform for the Ethics and Politics of Technology and one of the initiators of the movement Science in Transition.Building bridges between science, research, society and policy-making, and methodological and conceptual innovation is central to his work. He was a member of the KNAW advisory committees on roots and prevention of inappropriate behavior in academia (present) and on the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2015-2016) and served twice as ad interim Chair of the Department of Philosophy.Previously, he was affiliated to the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) and the Rathenau Institute. At the WRR, he worked on food policy, international security, European cooperation, climate justice and long-term climate policy. At the Rathenau Institute, he advised the government and stimulated public debate on emerging technologies, privacy and information technologies, and biomedical developments. He was Member of the WTMC Board between 2011-2018. His work has been published in Nature, Security Dialogue, Geopolitics, the Journal of Borderlands Studies, International Political Sociology, Sociology of Health and Illness and the Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning. His most recent book is Borders as Infrastructure: The Technopolitics of Border Control (MIT Press, 2021) (Open Access).


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Symposium ‘The Future of Science and Technology Studies’