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STS@Nottm Diasporas: Openness as Ethos and as Topic

What holds together an STS network with diverse empirical, conceptual and philosophical orientations? This exhibit tells the story of the Institute for Science and Society (ISS) which originated in Nottingham in a small unit formed in 1998 to examine the emerging life sciences ‘revolution’. The institute then expanded through the involvement of a diverse set of people, developing new research and training practices, striking collaborations across disciplines, and spawning geographical and intellectual diasporas across continents and STS sites. In relating this story, we ask if openness can be understood as the glue that held us together. We consider openness as an ethos (which allowed us to grow well beyond our origins in the social aspects of life sciences), and as a topic (which we investigated via a Leverhulme programme on the challenges and opportunities of ‘making science public’).

The Institute for Science and Society has welcomed dozens of students who came from many disciplinary backgrounds and countries including Burkina Faso, China, Germany, Ghana, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Mexico, Poland, Thailand and the US. They in turn became the centre of our community, running a successful seminar series and enthusing many others with the spirit of STS. On this 20th anniversary, ISS has produced a conventional academic artefact (Science and the Politics of Openness, Manchester University Press). But the STS Across Borders idea inspired us to make sense of our highly diverse foci, and conceive of contributions to STS in new ways, namely, through diasporas rather than despite them. Rather than focus mainly on our scholarly publications which are readily available through normal academic channels, STS@Nottm tells our story through material from our seminars, blog, PhD programme, reports for public audiences, and conferences (as well as the odd academic output that captures our ethos of collaboration).

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