Thursday, March 12, 2009

Politics and Expertise: Patrick Feng, TODAY at ACT

Today at 3pm, at the SFU Harbour Centre campus ACT Lab, Patrick Feng from the University of Calgary will be giving his talk:

Politics and Expertise: Theorizing the Role of Standards Organizations in Shaping Science and Technology Policy

ABSTRACT: The development of scientific and technical standards has traditionally taken place away from the view of the general public. While the work of standards bodies can have huge impacts on the public—think about standards for environmental protection, food safety, or data security—the actual process of setting such standards is widely seen as lying outside of the political realm. Recent work in Science and Technology Studies, however, suggests that standards-setting is a deeply political process in which the public can and should have a say.

This talk examines the role that standards organizations play in shaping public policy. I will discuss how these organizations function and how they are expected to inform policy. I will also discuss the tension inherent in many standards bodies between politics and expertise. To what extent are decisions based on scientific concerns and to what extent are they driven by other factors? Since experts play a prominent role in the development of standards, it is crucial to ask what kinds of expertise are considered and whether such expertise could be mobilized in other ways. I suggest that reconciling tensions between politics and expertise within standards bodies and other “technical” organizations is an important step in democratizing science and technology policy.

Patrick Feng is an assistant professor in the Science, Technology, and Society program at The University of Calgary.

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