I’m looking forward to visiting STIS (Science, Technology & Innovation Studies) in Edinburgh next week to give an invited seminar. It will be a great opportunity to catch up with new friends, meet some new faces and try out some of my emerging work on ‘public observatories’ with a specialist audience. The seminar is open to all and will be held 15.00-17.00 on 3rd February 2020 in the Violet Laidlaw Room, CMB, 6th Floor. The title and abstract are below.
Public (participation) observatories and responsible innovation
This talk will explore and offer justification for the recently proposed models for public participation in science and technology policy collectively referred to as ‘public observatories’. While a number of different models have been proposed, a common thread in these approaches is the aim of monitoring and mapping diverse forms of public engagement around a given issue space or area of technological innovation. In contrast to the one-off, institution-led processes of public engagement generally advocated in toolkits for responsible research and innovation (RRI), this approach instead speaks to an understanding of public participation as taking place within a wider interrelating system or ecology. I will argue that public observatories have the potential to offer a significantly better evidence base to policymaking and RRI processes, by providing a more complex and dynamic picture of relevant citizen views and actions. In particular, this approach goes beyond the typical focus in RRI-related public engagement on immediately controversial topics to also encompass more mundane engagements and views, while also allowing for an exploration of potential alternatives to a proposed decision or technology. Throughout the talk I will draw on two examples of public observatories which are currently in development: the Societal Engagement with Energy Observatory which is a core capability of the fourth phased of the UK Energy Research Centre; and the ‘Just Public Algorithms’ project which is mapping public engagement with the adoption of algorithms in UK public services.
I am running a panel at this week’s Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers Annual Conference in London on the topic of digital democracy. I’m really exciting about this double session panel for a number of reasons, not least because I’ve long been curious to hear other geographer’s perspectives on this contested object of digital democracy, and because of the range of different cases, topics, domains and framings being used across these 8 presentations. See full details of the sessions below:
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about digital participation and digital democracy lately, and hope to be able to do more writing on this topic and get some projects off the ground in 2019. I’m also hoping to connect with others with similar interests – thus this call for papers for the RGS annual conference in London this summer (28th-30th August). I’m also thrilled that the Digital Geographies Research Group of the RGS-IBG has agreed to sponsor this session at this year’s conference!
My colleague Jason Chilvers and I have two calls for papers open building on our work on systemic and relational approaches to participation in our UK Energy Research Centre-funded project.
The first call is for the 4S/EASST conference in Barcelona, August 31st – September 3rd 2016, on ‘Ecologies of participation: Thinking systemically about science and technology by other means’. The second call is for the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers’ Annual Conference, August 30th – September 2nd 2016, on ‘Relational Geographies of participation‘.
Last week I was delighted to be offered a lectureship in the Human Geography of the Environment in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, where I have been based since I started my Master’s degree. I will formally take up the lectureship on April 1st (when I will be, appropriately, at the Association of American Geographers annual conference in San Francisco) and my main task will be contribute to and help shape the School’s new Geography BA programme which starts in September 2016. I will carry on my involvement with the UKERC energy participation project which I have been working on as a senior research associate for the last year, but my new role will also give me the opportunity develop my ideas around ‘democratic innovations’ further and put some new research proposals together. I will also be helping to run field trips and taking on other teaching and administrative responsibilities.
I have had an abstract accepted to contribute to a COST action workshop in Brighton in April, on the topic ‘Beyond experiments: Understanding how climate governance innovations become embedded‘. The aim of the workshop is to develop an edited book, and I’m using my chapter to develop my thinking on ‘democratic innovations’, a concept around which I hope to focus my research in future. What particularly attracted me to the workshop was the emphasis on bringing together insights from science and technology studies and governance studies which is something I have been thinking about a lot. I explain how I am hoping to do this in the abstract below, and how I think a focus on democratic innovations, rather than just public participation processes for example, can lead to new insights about climate governance.