May 23, 2014, by Brigitte Nerlich

Blogging the Circling of the Square

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 07.11.09Members from the Making Science Public programme co-organised a very successful interdisciplinary conference (20-22 May) with the University of Nottingham’s Science, Technology and Society research Priority Group, led by Reiner Grundmann. Sarah Hartley, Philip Moriarty and Brigitte Nerlich were part of the conference committee and Warren Pearce contributed to a panel session. Almost all of the PIs and Making Science Public fellows participated in the conference. Three Honorary Associates to the programme made important contributions to the conference as panellists and keynote speakers: Sheila Jasanoff, Stephen Turner and Steve Rayner.

The conference was entitled ‘Circling the square: Research, politics, media and impact’ and, thanks to lots of hard work by Phil Moriarty, June McCombie, Georgina Endfield and other members of the STS PG management group, brought together a broad spectrum of natural scientists, social scientists, humanities scholars, representatives of NGOs and interest groups, young and old. It was actually lovely to see so many PhD students from the natural sciences keen to learn more about science and politics and the media.

Keynote lectures and panel discussions provoked very lively and spirited debates which circled around facts and values in science and politics, the impact of the UK’s impact agenda, the complex interactions between scientists and policy makers, as well as scientists and journalists.

Here are some blog posts on the conference posted during the conference:

Philip Moriarty, a nanoscientist (Nottingham) (and also an Honorary Associate to the MSciP programme), reported on the robust exchanges between those who see science as an essentially politicised/political activity and those who still believe in types of scientific endeavour that are relatively disinterested.

Athene Donald, a soft matter physicist (Cambridge), tried to inject some positive thoughts into a relatively negatively tinted but very lively debate about science and the media sparked by a great keynote lecture given by Andy Williams (Cardiff).

Sylvia McLain, a bio-physicist (Oxford), put the notion of ‘scientist’ and various misconceptions surrounding it under the microscope.

Alasdair Taylor, a chemist and communicator (Nottingham), mused about the perils of the press release (reposted here and here)

The  conference ended with a very animated debate chaired by Brigitte which again tackled issues around facts, values and impacts and ended with Kate Roach reading out a short story that made people think about these issues from a different and hopefully thought-provoking perspective.

After the conference Warren published a post on jargon and language.

There is also a some discussion on the (political) nature of science over at And then there’s physics

On Sunday morning (25 May) both Brigitte and Phil mused again about the issue of science and politics and, hold the front page, largely agreed with each other 😉

Here is Reiner‘s summary of the event/experiment published on the Klimazwiebel.

Alasdair has penned some further reflections onthe conference under the title ‘Has the square been circled’ – they are thought-provoking, clear and really worth a read! (reposted here)

Another short summary of the conference can be found on Ruth Dixon‘s blog My Garden Pond – the question posed there is: Where do we go from here? – A very good question!

Ok, there is MORE:

And then there’s physics has posted a blog post entitled STS vs physics reflecting on the exchanges between Phil and Reiner on Phil’s blog post Science is not what you want it to be

In response to Phil’s first post entitled The laws of physics are undemocratic, Tim Johnson has written a post entitled Scientific facts and democratic values in which he discusses both Phil’s and Reiner’s comments/posts, but more Phil’s.

Megan Beech, who is doing a PhD on the social impact of research, wrote a post on her blog ‘The misadventures of Dr Beech’ about research governance, research communication and impact (and how lovely the University of Nottingham is :))

Also have a look at the long stream of tweets produced during the conference. And here is a storify account.

There is now a conference BLOG which will feature films of all the keynotes and sessions.

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