What does it mean to talk about science (communication) in the public good?

Wednesday 31st May 2023 (13:00-14:00)

All are very welcome to join this seminar via MS Teams.

Our seminar series will feature speakers who will use ideas from science and technology studies and related fields to illuminate their area of study. If you would like more information about ISS, or would like to give a presentation in the future please contact ISS Director, Pru Hobson-West.


ISS Seminar Series 20223/23 

Speaker: Professor Sujatha Raman, Australian National University


Science is widely characterised as a public good. So long as the knowledge and infrastructures generated by scientific research are freely available, the argument goes, we are all potentially capable of benefiting. Benefits might flow from direct use (e.g., to produce more knowledge, stake out a claim for political attention or underpin a policy directive) or from indirect, but nonetheless tangible, outcomes (e.g., pharmaceuticals, ‘clean’ energy technologies, agri-biotech, etc). In this talk, I will briefly unpack the economic foundations of this vision of science as a public good and contrast them with alternative perspectives from STS and allied social sciences. My aim is to explore the implications of different ways of imagining and talking about the link between science and public good.

From an economic perspective, public good is intrinsic to science – or at least, it can be, provided we put the right institutional arrangements in place. From an STS perspective which underpins arguments for greater public engagement around science, public good must instead be discovered through dialogue between different actors, their expectations, needs and priorities. Drawing from ongoing work in the UNESCO Chair in Science Communication at the ANU, I will outline a third constitutive perspective rooted in planetary dilemmas and obligations in terms of how we make – and communicate about - science in the public good.


Sujatha Raman is Professor and Director of Research at the Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS), Australian National University (ANU). She leads the UNESCO Chair in Science Communication for the Public Good. Raman is interested in the forms of expertise needed to respond to planetary crises in the context of diversity in how we know, value and order things.

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Institute for Science and Society
School of Sociology and Social Policy
Law and Social Sciences
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD