CNS Announces Poster Presentation Winners From Democratizing Technologies

The recent CNS-hosted conference, Democratizing Technologies: Assessing the Roles of NGOs in Technological Futures, included poster presentations and a competition in which conference participants voted on the best three. From amongst a host of cutting edge, interdisciplinary studies, the following projects placed first, second, and third respectively. Please click on the titles to view the actual posters.

The Cavalry versus an Electronic Militia: Comparing the IAEA and CTBTO’s Response to Fukushima
Patrick S. Roberts, Associate Professor, School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech

In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, a small and relatively new organization, the CTBTO, went beyond its mission to monitor nuclear tests and offered information about the dispersion of radiation around the world. At the same time, the International Atomic Energy Agency, known by the sobriquet, “the UN’s nuclear watchdog,” drew criticism for not providing enough information in a timely fashion to governments, the media, and citizens looking for answers about the extent of the crisis and the threat posed by radiation. The divergent performance of the IAEA and CTBTO raises questions for theories of public organizations. The life cycle tradition in the sociology of organizations predicts that performance suffers in new organizations because they lack experience. Over time, their learning curves increase and they adapt to their environment and develop more efficient routines and trust with stakeholders. In this case, however, the newer CTBTO improvised efficient routines despite limited resources, and quickly developed trust among users, whereas routines and trust among stakeholders stymied the IAEA’s efforts. This case also offers evidence that the CTBTO exercised a form of bureaucratic power appropriate for a dispersed, social media world, against the wishes of states and other organizations.


The Changing Terrains of Regulatory Science in Developing Countries: NGOs, Controversies and “Opening up” of Regulatory Governance
Poonam Pandey,1 Aviram Sharma
1Doctoral student, Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University

NGOs and ‘controversies’ (scientific, social, ethical or political) are the common denominators in most of the cases which have contributed to the changing relationships between science and society over the last few decades. The “opening-up” of regulatory science for public engagement in its various formats all over the world is generally associated with one or the other factors, sometimes to the extent of fantasizing as well as demonizing the science. This paper, taking the example of three case studies -- a CSE (Centre for Science and Environment) report on the presence of pesticides in soft drinks and bottled water, the agribiotechnology debate, and the nanotechnology situation in India -- tries to understand the relationship between NGOs and controversies in (re-) defining the science-society relationship. The three cases illustrate how NGOs and controversies by their presence or absence at various stages of technology development shape the various aspects of science-society relationship such as public perception and support, funding, media coverage, regulatory structures and governance of technology.

Nano Twitter: Can Social Media Provide a Means for Public Engagement about Emerging Technologies

Richard Appelbaum, Barbara Herr Harthorn, Ariel Hasell,1 and Galen Stocking
1Graduate Student, Department of Communication, University of California, Santa Barbara

The science policy community often decries the lack of public understanding about emerging technologies and the potential negative impact this can have on the research community and public policy. Several studies have examined potential public engagement, but this has been largely limited to media like newspapers and blogs that force the public to seek information. This study examines discussion about nanotechnology on Twitter, which offers the potential for more incidental exposure. We collected all nanotechnology Tweets from 2010-2014 and analyzed their language to determine if they were geared toward discussing nanotechnology at an expert level or explaining it in more common language. We also categorized these tweets into posts about research or product. We show that descriptions of products prevail over descriptions of research or any explanations and show that there is an increase in descriptions of products leads to an increase in Tweets explaining how those products work. The results suggest that baic explanations of research may not be filtering down to interested publics, limiting their potential engagement with the scientific community and creating unrealistic product oriented expectations.