Science, Technology and Society Research Priority Group

Research theme- Science, politics and publics

Over the last 20 years in the UK, a series of political crises have challenged the authority of science and the authority of policy makers.

Examples are the effects of rogue science on public health (the MMR vaccine), the impacts of the politicisation of climate science on climate policy (“Climategate”) and the renewed polarisation of the debate about GM crops in the wake of the Rothamsted protest, which may affect food policy in Europe for years to come. Such crises have contributed to a widely held perception, particularly amongst policy makers, of a lack of public trust in science, decline in the capacity of science to underpin political legitimacy, and tensions in the relationship between government and science.

In a new five-year research programme funded by the Leverhulme Trust, we aim to study these crises of science and policy, whilst also aiming to expose some of the pitfalls inherent in certain envisaged solutions, such as attempts to make science more public, open and transparent.

This work is complemented by other projects underway by STS Priority Group scholars, such as research exploring the increasing influence of neuroscience in ethico-political discourses and ongoing research into the role of language in the public understanding of science.

Key questions

  • What is meant by making science more public, open or transparent?
  • Who are ‘the public’ and how are they constituted?
  • What might ‘public science’ mean for the authority and independence of science and the capacity of publics to engage with science?
  • What are the political implications of making science more public?
  • How are scientific controversies linguistically framed, in the media and elsewhere?
  • What are the socio-cultural implications of attempts to understand morality and politics as biological and/or neurological phenomena?

Key research areas

  • Scientific advisory systems
  • Food security
  • Animals and society
  • Wider influence of neuroscience
  • Language and metaphor


NB. Some of this work links up with research carried out by the Global Food Security Priority Group

Collaborations and partnerships

Our 'Making Science Public' project involves collaborative efforts with:

The University of Sheffield

University of Warwick

University of Bergen

Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes

Our research dealing with language and metaphor involves collaborative efforts with:

University of Hamburg

De Montford University

Climate Outreach and Information Network



Science, Technology and Society Priority Group

Law and Social Sciences Building
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD