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Three Tensions in the Governance of Science and Technology

Borrás, Susana (2012): Three Tensions in the Governance of Science and Technology
Chapter in David Levi-Faur (ed.) (2012): The Oxford Handbook of GovernanceOxford: Oxford University Press.

This chapter suggests that the governance of science and technology is characterized by three sets of persistent tensions, namely the tension between the self-organization of S&T and the politics of purpose; the tension between hierarchy, network, or market forms of organizing interactions; and the tension between the role of citizens and that of scientific experts in the decisions about collective problems and their solutions. The main argument of this chapter is that these three tensions have become more intense during the past few decades, and that they reflect the overall move from government to governance. The main point is that during the past few decades there has been considerable multiplication and sophistication of the institutional arrangements that mediate and govern the three tensions mentioned above. Tensions that were once resolved in a rather straightforward and hierarchical way are now subject to many different co-existing and heterogeneous institutional arrangements that define solutions in complex, dynamic, and overlapping ways. The natural question that emerges from this is whether this multiplication and heterogeneity of institutional arrangements is having an impact on the effectiveness and legitimacy of S&T governance. Addressing this question would require a renewed research agenda for the social sciences cutting across strict disciplinary boundaries. The final section of this chapter suggests that such a renewed research agenda would need to focus on bringing forward a ‘systems’ approach to the study of effective S&T governance, and an empirical approach to the study of legitimate S&T governance.

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