Striving for reflexive science

19 July 2019
Social Innovation
Societal Impact
Societal Transformation
Participatory Approaches
Civil Society
Roger Strand

Strand R (2019), 'Striving for reflexive science', fteval Journal for Research and Technology Policy Evaluation, 48, 56–61. DOI: 10.22163/fteval.2019.368.

The article is available in open access on the repository of the Austrian Platform for Research and Technology Policy Evaluation and on Zenodo


The value of reflexivity has repeatedly been mobilised in claims for Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) research. In short (if not in caricature), the policy narrative goes like this: Scientists, scientific practices, the governance of science and indeed modern society should become more reflective/reflexive. This can be achieved by involving SSH, which are inherently reflexive. In this paper, I will follow this narrative from the “Ethical, Legal and Social Implications” (ELSI)/ “Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects of bio-, neuro-, and nanotechnology (ELSA) policies and practices of the 1990s and 2000s, to the concept of “Responsible Research and Innovation” (RRI) and the “need to integrate” SSH with STEM to address societal challenges in Horizon 2020. Drawing upon my experience as an SSH practitioner in ELSA, RRI and societal challenges-focused interdisciplinary collaborations, I shall propose two lessons learnt. One key lesson is the need to go beyond the simple policy narrative “SSH makes science more reflexive” and the many disappointments that it invariably produces. The other key lesson is the need to go beyond simple dichotomies between SSH research and scholarship on one hand and non-SSH research on the other in order to look for meaningful collaborations.


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