Clip 3 Science Communication





Creative Commons Licence

Contributed date

August 17, 2023 - 12:58am

Critical Commentary

In this interview with Maja Horst, Professor of Responsible Innovation and Design at the Technical University of Denmark, and member of the Danish Academy of Technical Sciences, Emily York and Noela Invernizzi ask Horst to expand on her perspectives and experiences on “doing STS in the world”. Horst has served for seven years as a member of the Science and Innovation Advisory Board to the Danish Minister in the Parliament, and then as a member, and later as Chair of the Board of the Danish Research Councils. In this interview, she shares the challenges she faced in bringing STS perspectives into the political discussion and goes further calling for the STS field to be more policy-oriented if we want STS reflections and ideals on science and technology governance to advance. 

By the early 2000s when Maja Horst finished her PhD, STS was dealing with controversies regarding emerging technologies and arguing for more societal dialogue and public engagement with S&T. Her experience in public communication of S&T -not her STS knowledge at large, unknown in Danish political circles- and, as she said, “being a woman” in a time when governments were looking for more gender diversity, conducted her to an advisory position in the political system.

Making STS knowledge relevant in the political milieu is certainly not easy. Maja Horst shared with us her experience and some lessons learned. First, she argues, bringing STS into the policy world demands translation work, and translation means that you have to pay attention to the context, to the actors around, and find a way to explain things in a way that fits the context. In this sense, she sees this work as science communication, as you are dealing with non-experts or even scientists from very different fields, and you have to find the right way to communicate with them. 

Second, it is all about balance between pragmatism (working with policymaking) and idealism (working across policymaking). As STSers, we have big ideals, but the policy world is the world of the possible, so Horst tells us “you have to choose your battles wisely”, and be realistic in terms of the changes you can spur. This does not mean giving in to your ideals; on the contrary, working across policymaking requires being challenging, and saying things that need to be said. STS ideals give you direction.

Third, policy advice skills can and should be developed within STS students and early career researchers. For Horst, they are the same basic competencies and skills you learn in STS training, but it is necessary to learn to use them in other ways. STS as a field, collectively -she argues- needs to explore more the world outside academia, and this certainly represents a teaching challenge. One of the most relevant things students must learn about the policy world is about time, both in the sense that politics and policy demand fast answers, but also in the sense of timing: is this the right moment to advance this particular issue? Can we respond timely when a political opportunity appears?

Finally, looking back to her experience, Maja Horst advises us that it is not easy nor quick to have an influence in the policymaking world, but “small steps are better than no steps.”

Group Audience


Cite as

Maja Horst, Emily York and Noela Invernizzi, "Clip 3 Science Communication", contributed by Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, Engaging Science, Technology, and Society (ESTS) Journal, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 3 December 2023, accessed 23 July 2024.