Singapore 2013: Re-Contextualizing Science in Society? Contested Futures of Science and Knowledge Production

Petra Schaper-Rinkel, 16 July 2013, Re-Contextualizing Science in Society? Contested Futures of Science and Knowledge Production, presentation; Asia-Pacific Science, Technology & Society Network – Biennial Conference 2013., „Knowing, Making, Governing“, Tembusu College, National University of Singapore, 15 – 17 July, 2013


This paper examines some of the main trends and changes that are likely to affect science and knowledge production over the next decades. Current research practices generate new kinds of data (e.g. participatory sensing) and research involves more and more actors as everyone is producing digital data everywhere that can be used for research (e.g. using mobile phone data for urban planning). The traditional scope of stakeholders is expanding to include citizens, patients and volunteers in conservation issues as well as a range of providers of online-platforms and research related services. Tensions are likely to arise between strategies to promote open access on the one hand and the significant market power of the main publishers and their databases used by science policy to measure the output of research and to determine funding on the other hand. The potential of research digitalization to impact science is huge; by changing research practices, changing ways of communicating and publishing research results and by challenging institutions and regulatory regimes that are established within national or transnational boundaries. These are examples of new ways of doing research that are related to new ways of organizing research on different levels ranging from the laboratory to the global landscape. All these changes are highly interconnected and they are all related to the open debate about the place and the re-contextualization of science in society.

We first analyse main dimensions of change where developments take place which affect the dynamics of science (eg. Digital Science, Impact Assessment). We then explore the tensions and paradoxes that arise during the ongoing transformation of scientific research as researchers and research organizations try to meet very different and sometimes conflicting objectives. Main tensions are examined, including tensions between research collaboration and competition for research funding,               between scientific excellence versus research that is relevant to contributing to societal needs, the tension between open science versus commodification of research and between research efficiency and targeting foundational breakthroughs in research.

Based on the results of the EU project “Research and Innovation Futures 2030: From explorative to transformative scenarios”, the paper examines the main dimensions of change, its implications, and the tensions arising.