Introducing the new WTMC director Esther Turnhout

Since January this year, I will be acting as the Academic Director of WTMC, the Netherlands Graduate Research School of Science and Technology Studies. We could refer to this as STS-Netherlands since WTMC functions as a network for Dutch STS researchers, including PhD students. Perhaps some words of introduction would be useful.

I see myself as an interdisciplinary social scientist drawing on STS and political theory approaches to analyze relations between knowledge, policy and society. Most of my work is in the environmental domain, including forests and nature, biodiversity, and sustainability.

Since September 2021, I do this as chair of Science, Technology and Society at the University of Twente (you can find more info about me here: https://people.utwente.nl/e.turnhout). As part of this new position, I am interested in the transformation of science, which I believe is needed for science increase its legitimacy and its contribution to needed societal and political transformations towards sustainability. I am keen to explore the many proposals and efforts we have seen in this direction, but also why progress is so slow and what the obstacles are that block fundamental change. Decolonization, power, pluralism, and justice are key ingredients of the research I want to pursue.

I was trained as an ecologist and I did my PhD on a topic at the intersection between policy analysis and STS. I drew on the concept of boundary work which at that time was relatively new and quite fashionable. This concept was also my first encounter with WTMC because, although I was not a WTMC PhD student, I was lucky enough to participate in the summer school featuring Thom Gieryn. This summer school was a career and life changing event for me. This is one of the reasons why I feel very honoured to join WTMC as director and I hope to do it justice. The graduate school offers a community that works to offer excellent PhD training and strengthen and innovate the field of STS. WTMC also has an important role to play beyond the STS community. Academic and societal interest in understanding and improving relations between science, technology and society is growing and I see WTMC as a network that has so much to offer to inform and contribute to these developments.

As Academic Director, I hope to collaborate with you on strengthening WTMC and securing these important functions. I hope to meet many of you in the coming years, either in person or online; at one of the WTMC courses and events – I would like to visit as many as possible – at the EASST conference early summer in Madrid, or at some other opportunity. If you want to meet and have a chat about WTMC or about something else, you are very welcome to contact me at e.turnhout@utwente.nl.