Celsius | School of Communications

Celsius 2013

Connecting Science and Policy

Seventh science//society symposium 

January 24-25, 2013

With Ireland's presidency of the EU in early 2013, science policy has come under almost unprecedented scrutiny. Ireland hosted the Euroscience Open Forum in 2012, drawing in the world's best across many scientific and technological disciplines, and with the hope of leaving a legacy. Also in 2012, a steering group and Forfás set out fourteen priority areas for science in Ireland. As Science Foundation Ireland took on the role of the Chief Scientific Advisor's Office, there have been tensions and anxieties among researchers over the direction of applied and basic research in Ireland. All of this occurs within the context of limited budgets and institutional changes within state bodies in these times of austerity. There are however, solutions to these science policy issues that require collaboration between science, technology and innovation (STI) policy-makers, higher education institutes, and the public. As of early 2013, the Irish Government is developing a science strategy to replace the 2006 Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, lead by Minister of State for Research Seán Sherlock. In this context, the Celsius research group at DCU hosted a symposium in the Helix at DCU on 24-25th January 2013. The keynote lecture was by Prof Ben Martin, of the Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex. This was the seventh annual science//society symposium hosted by the Celsius group at DCU.

Keynote talk: Professor Ben Martin, Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex, on "What can policy-makers learn from science policy studies?"

In this keynote talk, Professor Martin gave a thorough overview of the field of science policy and innovation studies and its development over the past fifty years. He detailed no less than twenty developments in science policy over this period, ranging from the evolution of a dynamic model of innovation from a static one, to the shift from Mode 1 to Mode 2 science, before describing the impacts of these developments on technology and innovation management and STI policy. Martin concluded with some thought provoking questions about the "evidence for evidence-based policy and its benefits to society.

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Dr Niels Mejlgaard, Centre for Research Policy Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark: Applying science in policy: comparisons across Europe

Dr Niels Mejlgaard presented results from the EU-funded Monitoring Policy and Research Activities on Science in Society in Europe (MASIS) project. The output of this project was a database about science in society issues across 37 EU and associated countries. Mejlgaard used this to group countries in terms of their use of science in policy-making, models of public involvement in science and technology decision-making and science communication culture. Mejlgaard concluded by noting that the heterogeneity of cultures poses a challenge to the promotion of shared European research policies, development of an ERA, and a common model of science in society.

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Prof Kirk Junker, University of Cologne, Germany: EU-US comparison of environmental science policy implementation through law

Professor Junker began his presentation with an explanation of the comparativist method and a rationale for his use of it, before moving on to compare common law and civil law systems with regard to environmental law (and policy). He gave an engaging explanation of the two systems and concluded by focusing on the Irish and UK situations, which are caught between the two systems-on the one hand having a common law (i.e. legislation by litigation) tradition and on the other hand a Trojan horse from Brussels bringing in science policy through rationalism.

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Dr Séamus Ó Tuama. Department of Government, University College Cork: Expert-lay relations in the policy process

Dr Séamus Ó Tuama presented a case for expert-lay relations in the policy process, emphasising what he termed "an old-fashioned idea" of the common good. He argued that lay people should be more involved in important decisions, noting from Neil Mejlgaard's presentation that this is not happening in Ireland. Ó Tuama went on to reference several scholars (Jasanoff, Aronowitz, Frankenfeld, Bohman) to justify his position : for real lay engagement with decision-making about science to occur, three key requirements must be met: initiative, participation and bindedness—a term he coined himself, which means that decisions that publics make need to be binding.

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Professor Fredric Adam, University College Cork: European practices in technology assessment

Professor Adam spoke about Parliamentary Assessment Technology (PTA) as a means to connect politics, science and society in making well-informed unbiased decisions. He grouped countries in terms of whether they carried out PTA or not and in terms of the different models of PTA used. Adam concluded by noting that Ireland focuses on science and economy while largely ignoring the relationship between science and society, and by calling for Ireland to address an impoverished engagement model through increasing the capacity of policy-makers, industrialists, scientists and citizens to engage on questions of science.

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Brenda McNally, PhD candidate, Dublin City University: Environmental sustainability and the social script.

Brenda McNally presented on her PhD research on how public discourses about environmental sustainability are shaping how people see their roles in transitioning to a low carbon future. She outlined her plans to carry out a qualitative analysis of discourses in Irish broadsheet newspapers and to triangulate this with secondary research on public perceptions on climate. This work will add Irish data to a growing international field of research.

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Laura Sexton, PhD candidate, University College Cork: Ireland's knowledge economy policies.

Laura Sexton's talk was about her research into the beliefs and drivers of Ireland's knowledge economy. As part of her on-going PhD research, she has interviewed public servants, politicians, as well as professionals from the corporate sector, education, and media. She has found that politicians support the knowledge economy idea, though they see it as a business rather than as an education policy; however the  main drivers for the policy are public servants (influenced by politicians).

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Mary O'Regan, PhD candidate, Tyndall Institute, University College Cork: Securing support for large-scale research facilities

Mary O'Regan presented on her PhD research about whether Ireland should present as a possible location for Big Science. She outlined the importance of champions for Big Science and explored some strategies that Ireland could use to engage in the area. She went on to give some ideas of possible projects that Ireland could engage in such as a global research centre in marine science.

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Diana Smith, PhD candidate, Dublin City University: Science communication as 'outreach'

Diana Smith looked at definitions and instances of science outreach in Ireland as it is represented on institute websites. She presented an investigation of who is involved, the purpose of involvement, and its relation to other forms of outreach. Her research problematizes the way science is represented, what audiences are addressed, and the 'outsourcing' of science outreach to science communication professionals. She concluded by suggesting that these issues be addressed by running longer and more authentic programmes.

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Chairs: Dr. Norah Campbell and Dr. Joanne Rourke, Trinity College 
Dublin, and Brian Trench, DCU