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STS@NottmDiasporas: 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 one which originated in Nottingham in a small unit formed in 1998 to examine the emerging life sciences ‘revolution’. The network 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’).

STS@Nottm 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, STS@Nottm 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. We envisage curating an exhibit (digital and physical) consisting of material from our seminars, blog, PhD theses, reports, and conferences (as well as the odd academic output) to illustrate and develop this point.

  • ISS Seminar Series posters and abstracts 2014-15
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    ISS Seminar Series poster 2014 - RRI

    This poster publicised two talks in the ISS Seminar Series Autumn 2014. Here is the abstract for Hartley and Pearce's talk:

    'Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a bridge between science and society that aims to increase the public value of science. The concept has begun to move beyond the academic literature to become an integrated requirement of Centres for Doctoral Training and Synthetic Biology Centres funded by EPSRC and BBSRC. As RRI has become exposed to a broader range of actors, so the potential for different interpretations of the concept increases. This paper investigates how RRI is being interpreted within one research-intensive Russell Group university, and the opportunities and challenges for governance. Using documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews, we identify six key narratives that express actors’ perceptions of RRI’s purpose and value. We present a conceptual framework based upon these narratives, and argue that future moves to broaden or narrow RRI’s definition will likely result in material effects on actors’ support for the agenda within the university.'

    ISS Seminar Series poster 2014 - climates

    This poster publicised Martin Mahony's talk on ‘Situating internationalism in the atmospheric sciences: histories, geographies, climates and change’ in the ISS Seminar Series Autumn 2014. Here is the talk abstract:

    'At different moments in the last 100 years British atmospheric science has been positioned as a gateway to authoritative knowledge about the world’s diverse climates, raising questions about the nature of international cooperation and the mechanisms by which knowledge of a global atmosphere is produced and circulates. Drawing on existing work on the politics of regional climate modelling and linking it to new research on the history of British imperial meteorology, this talk will argue for a new approach to the historical geographies of atmospheric knowledges. In the early 20th century attempts were made to make London the hub for the Empire’s weather knowledge but, paralleling broader shifts in imperial science policy, the Empire was later positioned instead as a space of collegial cooperation and an organisational corrective to Eurocentric forms of internationalism then emerging in meteorology. More recently, the global dissemination of a standardised regional climate model from the UK Met Office raises similar questions about the social technologies of standardisation, about the exercise of epistemic power ‘at a distance’, and about the interplay of local and global in the production of authoritatively global knowledge. The talk will explore what’s at stake in connecting these historical moments.'

    ISS Seminar Series poster 2014 - chicken

    This poster publicised Naomi Sykes' talk ‘Why did the chicken cross the globe? Half a dozen egs of science, culture and engagement’ in the ISS Seminar Series Autumn 2014. Here is the talk abstract:

    'Why on earth should we care about chickens? They are comical, stupid and their only purpose is to provide us with cheap meat and eggs, right? Well…

    While this may be the common perception of chickens today, it is a very recent attitude. Prior to the 19th century, chickens were viewed variously as medicine, companions, gods, and as the focus of religious and magical rituals. The chicken is as much a part of our cultural heritage as Stonehenge, yet few people are aware of it.

    Do you know where chickens originally come from? Do you know when they were introduced to Britain, or why? If the answers to these questions are no, come to this seminar. It will explain how a group of archaeologists, anthropologists, artists, biochemists, cultural geographers, geneticists and poultry enthusiasts are working together to examine how the fortunes of humans and chickens have been, and continue to be, mutually shaped.

    Examining thousands of years of data, this seminar will consider how evidence from the past can be used to help us navigate present and future issues of food security, biodiversity, health and well-being.

    To find out more about this project, funded by the AHRC’s Science in Culture theme, visit or follow the team on twitter @Chicken_Project'

    ISS Seminar Series poster 2014 - cyber-bullies

    This poster publicised Philip Moriarty's talk on ‘Peer review in public: rise of the cyber-bullies?’ in the ISS Seminar Series Autumn 2014. Here is the talk abstract:

    'The traditional model of academic publishing is (thankfully) under attack. Growing indignation with the business models of a number of major publishers, coupled with the steadily increasing recognition of the importance of open access to research results, has fuelled a drive towards making academic papers much more accessible to the public. In parallel, social media, blogging, and post-publication critique (facilitated by sites such as PubPeer) are steadily changing the character of peer review. I’ll discuss the power and pitfalls of post-publication peer review, with a particular focus on the role of anonymous commenting. '

    ISS Seminar Series poster 2015

    This poster publicised Chiara Ceci's talk on ‘Public Attitudes to Chemistry in the UK’ in the ISS Seminar Series Summer 2015. Here is the talk abstract:

    'Does chemistry have an image problem? Many chemists believe that the chemical sciences have suffered from a growing disconnection between the public's perception of 'chemicals' and the chemical realities of the world. But is this the full story? Public attitudes are complex to understand and even harder to influence: to shift public opinion and raise the profile of chemistry we must first develop our understanding of public perception and exposure to chemistry. Chiara Ceci will present a research conducted for the Royal Society of Chemistry: a qualitative and quantitative study on public attitudes toward chemistry in the UK. We will discuss the findings and compare them to data on attitudes to science in general, and about the cognitive separation for ideas associated with "chemists", "chemistry" and "chemicals" discussing the importance for public communications of reconsidering our understanding of behavioural psychology and human decision making.'