Emerging sciences and technologies: why so many promises?

Introduction :

The aim of organising a Workshop at the Brocher Fondation is to prepare a book on contemporaneous “scientific promises” (see the annexed file Projet éditorial). The publication will constitute an achievement of 5 years of research coordinated by the project “Nanopublic” of the Science – Society Interface at the University of Lausanne. Expectations, visions, and promises that science will bring new things and solve stabbing problems are one of the most visible and popular part of science. However, “scientific and technological promises” are rarely studied as such and reflected. The recent bubble of promises, and the feeling of repetition of patterns of hype and disillusionment, in other words the economy or business of promises raises many questions: the role of science policy and of the funding system of research, the reputation of science and its image in the public, the imaginaries implied in future visions of technology and society. That’s why a publication improving critical skills of both the academic and the lay reader is timely. The book also aims at promoting public debate and will be accompanied by initiatives of engagement. The Science – Society Interface and the Ethos interdisciplinary ethics platform of the University of Lausanne shared a research seminar from 2008 to 2012 entitled “Reconfiguring humanness? Scientific promises and social change”. Its main focus has been on nanomedicine and human enhancement. Nevertheless, one of its conclusions holds that many domains of science and technology, and of life sciences in particular, are concerned by the “business of promises”. While promises and visions have historically always accompanied the work of science, it remains a challenge to explain and describe the contemporary features of scientific promises one finds on a daily basis in multiple media. The envisaged publication will have an anchor in science and technology studies, although it borrows to approaches enrooted in various disciplines and experiences, history, sociology, philosophy. The Workshop and the projected book are gathering two different kinds of authors. Among the speakers invited since 2008 by Nanopublic, 12 will be asked to make a contribution. And among the participants to the Nanopublic seminar, 12 colleagues from Lausanne and Switzerland will have the opportunity to make a contribution to the envisaged publication since their doctoral thesis or researches are dealing with the theme of promises of emerging science and technology. In addition, the applicants want to invite 2 speakers that have an international reputation in science and technology studies and publications of reference on the topic.

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