• Alexander von Humboldt Lecture Series 2013-2014

Alexander von Humboldt Lecture Series 2013-2014

The Department of Geography, Spatial Planning and Environment at the Radboud University of Nijmegen cordially invites you to our Lecture and Seminar Series on the theme of

Science in/and/of Society


The interlinking of science with other spheres of society has been a lively topic in the Sociology of Science. Historically, this link was conceptualized as a linear model in which scientific ‘truth’ discovered in fundamental research was transferred through applied science into the political arena where it is transformed into the decisions that can solve our problems and improve society. In this model the ‘bridging of the gap’ between science and the common good, naturally leads to a technocratic orientation, which facilitated the expert in ‘speaking truth to power” or the politician in ‘tapping the reservoir of science’ -and, in contemporary terms, making ‘evidence based policies’. Even though our understanding of these relations has moved towards more sophisticated versions, this model still informs the common knowledge of science and society. In our everyday understanding — shaped in part by the mass media — and decision-making on spatial-environmental issues, e.g. from making our living places climate-proof to assessing the costs and benefits of megaprojects and back to curbing the geographical spreading of infectious diseases, scientific expertise plays a major role in how we frame and handle such challenges. While this process requires a large amount of trust in science and experts, the authority of science has been eroding and knowledge sometimes becomes highly contested, especially in the western context. Scientific advisory sees itself confronted with an increase in the demands for transparency, participation and democratisation. Within this theme we investigate how science in general and the ‘spatial’ disciplines of geography, environmental studies, and spatial planning in particular deal with such demands or, somewhat more inciting, how they perhaps should deal with them, considering as well the changes in the way research is funded as well as the transformation of these disciplines’ relation to the political. The theme includes an interest in processes of self-reflection that could or should take place within the respective fields of geography, spatial planning, and environmental studies.

Questions to be addressed

How to organise the exchange between (spatial) science and modern democratic politics? What could be the role of (spatial) scientists vis-à-vis other spheres of society? How do we safeguard scientific relevance in the face of increasing demand for societal relevance -and what do these notions mean? How do we assess the role of (spatial) scientific expertise in legitimising interventions we make in our environment? What role does science play in predictions of the future, in providing knowledge in the face of the abyss of the unknowable? What role do scientists play in providing knowledge on climate change? On economic forecasting? On providing visions for the future spatial ordering of our world? And how do scientist deal with the production of ‘objective knowledge’ in the face of the decline of public funding and an increase of commercial funding?


For the programme see posters below or go to www.ru.nl/humboldt


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