WTMC Summer School ‘Opening up Diversity’ 22-26 August 2022

WTMC is happy to announce the Summer School ‘Opening up Diversity’ with anchor teacher Sabina Leonelli from Monday 22 to Friday 26 August 2022 at Soeterbeeck, Deursen-Dennenburg, the Netherlands.

Confirmed guest-speakers: Alana Helberg-Proctor, Susan LegêneBart Penders, Sarah de Rijcke, Jeannette Pols, Michela Massimi

Registration will open 29th of April.


What role does diversity play in research? “Let a thousand flowers bloom” is an expression often used within the academic world, to underscore the impression that cultivating a wide variety of perspectives on as many topics as possible is the best way to foster research. This is especially significant in the face of the many flavours of knowledge monopolies that have emerged in the last few decades. The effect of these monopolies has been to foreground specific research repertoires – and the typologies of people, materials, knowledge, technologies, values and politics that underpin them. These become entrenched as models for best practice, as it is very often the case within scientific disciplines and institutions. There is a substantive worry around how far such models of best practice can be generalised and extended, particularly when they become so formalised as to control what counts as legitimate research in the first place. Paying attention to diversity, and particularly, to what may have been excluded or devalued, can be a powerful way to disrupt existing knowledge systems, thus fostering creativity and novelty as well as justice and fairness in the choice of research topics, participants, and tools. There have therefore been strong calls – not least in STS – to cultivate diversity as an important lever against dogmatism, conservatism, and exclusionary logics in research. And yet, diversity can also be harnessed to protect the status quo. It can be evoked as an excuse to avoid political stances and clashes of values, or incorporated into neoliberal tales of liberation achieved through technocratic solutions.

In this summer school, we will consider what diversity amounts to in relation to science and technology, the ways in which this notion can be mobilised, and what appeals to diversity can and cannot do for STS research. We will look at types of diversity, ranging from epistemic (concerned with the content and conditions of knowledge) to social (demographic categories and identity politics) and institutional (systems of governance, communication and evaluation).  We will consider how diversity comes to be at stake in contemporary environmental and biomedical research, and the path dependencies created by power differential and colonial legacies. We will pay particular attention to the Open Science movement, as a double-edged attempt to multiply research perspectives and forms of engagement which proves challenging when implemented through existing research institutions and assessment systems. This exploration will help us to question how concepts of diversity relate to structural and epistemic injustice in research. We will also consider how specific technologies – and related standards and classification systems– can help cement, rather than disrupt, existing inequalities. Most importantly, the summer school will provide a space to reflect on what diversity means to contemporary STS research, especially for early career researchers whose trajectory is so profoundly marked by the current pandemic and related calls to produce socially relevant research under considerable political and time pressure.

Sabina Leonelli is professor in Philosophy and History of Science, the Co-Director of the Exeter Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis) and theme lead for the “Data Governance, Openness and Ethics” strand of the Exeter Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (IDSAI); and Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute in London. In the academic year 2021-22, Leonelli is based in Berlin as a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, working on “Excellence and Diversity in Global Scientific Practice. Key research sites: opensciencestudies.eu; datastudies.eu.

Her research spans the fields of history and philosophy of biology, science and technology studies and general philosophy of science, and currently focuses on four interrelated strands: [1] the philosophy, history and social studies of data-intensive science, especially the impact of Big and Open Data on research and wider society, responsible data management, data infrastructures and the construction of semantics to enable data linkage for automated mining in the plant sciences and biomedicine; [2] the philosophy of Open Science, and the scientific and social implications of implementing Open Science policies and procedures in a highly unequal world; [3] the philosophy and history of organisms as research models, with a focus on experimental organisms; [4] the history and epistemology of the plant sciences, especially the global circulation of plant data, its relation to biological materials and agricultural development strategies, and its significance for understanding 21st century biological research beyond the lab. She also has a strong interest in science policy and served as expert advisor for many national and international bodies including the European Commission.

The WTMC Summer School is aimed at PhD candidates who are in the first phase of preparing their doctoral dissertations. Preparation for the Summer School is estimated at 80 hours in total. The Summer School is residential as the programme continues into the evening. The Summer School is credited with 5 ECTs. It starts on August 22nd at 10:30 AM and ends on 26th August at 4 PM. Full participation in all parts of the programme is required.

Registration will open 29th of April.

If you have any content-related questions regarding this workshop, please feel free to contact the training coordinators Anne Beaulieu: j.a.beaulieu@rug.nl or Andreas Weber: a.weber@utwente.nl

For practical questions please contact Elize Schiweck: e.schiweck@utwente.nl