School of Sociology and Social Policy

News and Events

Between 2012 and 2018 the School of Sociology and Social Policy hosted a research programme funded by the Leverhulme Trust: 'Making Science Public'. This programme was directed by Professor Brigitte Nerlich, now Emeritus, between 2012 and 2016, and by Dr Sujatha Raman, now working at the Australian National University in Canberra, between 2016 and 2018. If you want to know more about the programme, you can now read highlights from our final report.

Summer 2017

External Funding

Pru Hobson-West was awarded a Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award in Humanities and Social Science. The programme is for 5 years and is entitled ‘The Animal Research Nexus: Changing Constitutions of Science, Health and Welfare’. The £1.6m programme is led by Exeter, with Nottingham, Oxford, Manchester and Southampton. 

Stevienna deSaille recently received a grant from the Independent Social Research Foundation to launch the Fourth Quadrant Research Network on Responsible Stagnation 

Sujatha Raman received a University of Nottingham £28,776 grant (AMR: Just Governance of a Sustainable Development Challenge) supported by three Research Priority Areas (AMR: Governance and Public Policy; Sustainable Development). MSciP colleagues Alison Mohr, Carol Morris, Roda Madziva and Kate Millar are co-applicants. 

Autumn 2016

Have a look at our Autumn 2016 newsletter for highlights of what team members have been working on over the last few months. 

New Programme Director

Professor Brigitte Nerlich retired at the end of September and Dr Sujtha Raman has taken over as Director of Making Science Public (MsciP). See our recent newsletter for Brigitte's 'farewell' message.

Recent MSciP Outputs

Collins, L.C. and Nerlich, B. (2016). 'Uncertainty discourses in the context of climate change: A corpus-assisted analysis of UK national newspaper articles'. Contribution to special issue on ‘Communicating uncertainty in our mediated world’. Communications 2016; 41(3): 291–313. 

Hadley Kershaw, E. (2016) ‘Making Science Public: Opening Up Closed Spaces’. EASST Review, 35(3). European Association for the Study of Science and Technology.

Hartley, S., Gillund, F., van Hove, L. and Wickson, F. (2016) ‘ Essential features of responsible governance of agricultural biotechnology’, PLoS Biology, 14(5)

Hartley, S., Pearce, W. and Taylor, A. (2016) ‘Against the tide of depoliticisation: The politics of research governance’, Policy & Politics.

Forsberg EM, Ribeiro B., Heyen, N.B., Nielsen, R.O, Thorstensen, E., de Bakker, E. Klüver, L., Reiss, T. Beekman, V. and Millar, K. (2016). ' Integrated assessment of emerging science and technologies as creating learning processes among assessment communities'. Life Sciences, Society and Policy 12(1), 9.

Nerlich, B., Jaspal, R. and van Vuuren, K. (2016). ' Embracing and resisting climate identities in the Australian press: Sceptics, scientists and politics'. Public Understanding of Science, 25(7), 807–824. 

Pearce, W. & Nerlich, B. (2017). 'An Inconvenient Truth': A social representation of scientific expertise. Science and the Politics of Openness: Here Be Monsters. Manchester: Manchester University Press.[Pre-review version] [CC-BY-NC]

Summer 2016

Opening Up Closed Spaces

We celebrated the achievements of the programme and discussed the agenda for future work at the one day conference Making Science Public: Opening Up Closed Spaces in June 2016. The conference ended with a public debate in the evening with panellists Sheila Jasanoff, James Wilsdon, Brian Wynne and Charlotte Watts. For more details have a look at Eleanor Hadley Kershaw’s paper about it for the EASST review.

Spring 2016

Have a look at our Spring 2016 newsletter

End of Award Conference, 22 June 2016

We are celebrating the achievements of Making Science Public and setting the agenda for future work at the one day conference Making Science Public: Opening Up Closed Spaces

The programme includes four panel discussions showcasing work carried out within the Making Science Public (MSciP) programme.

Following the academic conference, there will be a public event entitled 'What kinds of evidence do we need in a democracy?' which will be followed by a drinks reception and a BBQ.

This is a free event but we are not able to reimburse travel/accommodation costs, and there will be a charge of £15 for the conference BBQ.

It is a small conference and spaces are limited, so please register ASAP to avoid dissappointment.

Autumn 2015

Find out what the Making Science Public (MciP) team has been up to over the last few months in our Autumn 2015 newsletter.


Grant Success

MSciP programme members have been successful in gaining further external funding.

Sarah Hartley, Gillund and Fern Wickson (Genk- Centre for Biosafet, Norway) have been awarded 10, 000 from the Research Council of Norway, for a workshop entitled Responsible risk?: The interface between responsible innovation, ethics and risk assessment in the regulation of agricultural biotechnology, which will take place in Troms, Norway on 24 November.

Work has begun on the 12-month Discipline Bridging project to explore ways of embedding responsible research and innovation in a university setting. Sujatha Raman is the Academic Champion with co-champions across the University in science, engineering and social science (Alison Mohr) and Warren Pearce as researcher. Other MSciP team members, Brigitte Nerlich, Sarah Hartley, and Carmen McLeod (now Honorary Associate) are also involved, and Honorary Associate, David Guston (ASU) is one of the external co-investigators.

Pru Hobson-West has been chosen as an ESRC 'Impact Leader'. This programme is funded by the ESRC and involves social scientists working closely with a non-academic partner to explore what 'impact' means in their area of research. Pru is really excited to be working with Dr Penny Hawkins of the RSPCA and will be focusing on lab animals, including work funded via her MSciP project. The programme was launched in September 2015 and lasts for 12 months.

For further details contact Sarah Hartley, Sujatha Raman or Pru Hobson-West.

Recent MSciP Outputs

We have a range of recent outputs including journal articles, a popular working paper and a book chapter.

Journal articles

Marcelle C. McManus, Caroline M. Taylor, Alison Mohr, Carly Whittaker Corinne D. Scown, Aiduan Li Borrion, Neryssa J. Glithero7, Yao Yin (2015). 'Challenge clusters facing LCA in sustainability decision-making - what we can learn from biofuels', The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 20 (10), 1399-1414

Nerlich, B. (2015). Metaphors in science and society: The case of climate change and climate scientists. Language and Semiotic Studies 1(2), 1-15. (Soochow University, China)

Pearce, W., Raman, S., & Turner, A. (2015). Randomised trials in context: practical problems and social aspects of evidence-based medicine and policy. Trials, 16(1), 394.

This paper was the most accessed paper in the journal during September.

Pearce, W., Brown, B., Nerlich, B. and Koteyko, N. (in press). Communicating climate change:conduits, content, and consensus. WIREs Climate Change 2015. doi: 10.1002/wcc.366

Stelmach, A. and Nerlich, B. (2015). Metaphors in search of a target: The curious case of epigenetics. New Genetics and Society 34(2), 196-218

Working paper

Hartley, S., Pearce, W., & Taylor, A. (2015). Politicising scientific research: meanings of "responsible research and innovation" in the university (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2634938). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

This paper has consistently been in the Top 10 viewed papers on 'innovation economics' since being uploaded in July.

Book chapter

Nerlich, B. and Clarke, M. A. (2015). Comment: Resistance and escapism: The risks and rewards of disaster stories (pp. 9-11). In Infectious Futures: Stories of the post-antibiotic apocalypse, eds Lydia Nicholas and Joshua Ryan-Saha. Nesta/Longitude Prize

Further programme outputs can be seen on our research outputs page.


Summer 2015

Have a look at our Summer 2015 newsletter.


Beyond Certainty

Warren Pearce has co-authored a paper with Greg Hollin (University of Nottingham) in Nature Climate Change, which is the first piece of original research from science and technology studies (STS) published in the journal. The paper examined a press conference marking the publication of the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report and looked at the tension between expressing scientific certainty and making climate change meaningful. Warren stresses that "In the run-up to the United Nations climate summit in Paris, making climate change meaningful remains a key challenge. Our analysis of the press conference demonstrates that this cannot be achieved by relying on scientific certainty alone. A broader, more inclusive public dialogue will include crucial scientific details that we are far less certain about. These need to be embraced and acknowledged in order to make climate change meaningful."

It has been reported in The Independent, and was mentioned on Radio 4's News Briefing. You can also read more about it on Warren and Greg's blog.

For further details contact Warren Pearce.

Innovating Innovation Policy

Within the policy structures of the European Union, the concept of 'Responsible Research and Innovation' (RRI) appears to have a very specific emergence point, via a workshop for invited experts hosted by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation in May 2011. In her paper on 'Innovating Innovation Policy: The emergence of 'Responsible Research and Innovation', published in May by the Journal of Responsible Innovation, Stevienna de Saille uses a textual analysis of EU documents to examine the construction of RRI and the process of incorporating it into Horizon 2020 as a policy framework for the European Research Area which promises that technological innovation will be shaped towards social goods. She concludes by discussing some of the tensions between RRI and policies emanating from other EU institutions, highlighting areas which may impede RRI's progress towards its goals.

For further details contact Stevienna de Saille.

Policy Masquerading as Science

Sarah Hartley's paper looking at non-state actor involvement in the development of risk assessment policy has been published in the Journal of European Public Policy. In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced the Guidance on the Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Animals (the 'Guidance'). This Guidance is a risk assessment policy (RAP), establishing the risk assessment framework for releases of genetically modified (GM) animals, such as the GM Olive Fly into the environment. EFSA relies heavily on advice from ostensibly ‘independent’ scientific experts, but also has a statutory obligation to engage with stakeholders. One way in which it meets this obligation is to hold public consultations that are open to all non-state actors. In contrast to the vast majority of consultation exercises, EFSA's consultations are science-based: traditional policy issues, including ethical and socioeconomic issues are outside its remit. Sarah evaluated EFSA's science-based consultation against normative criteria. Overall, the findings call into question the quality, effectiveness and impact of EFSA's consultation, demonstrating the inability of non-state actors to influence policy. The article argues the Commission and EFSA failed to recognize the Guidance as policy, instead framing it as a technical document. This framing resulted in experts making policy and minimal non-state actor influence. When policy masquerades as science, unjustified restrictions are placed on non-state actor involvement and value judgements are cloaked from public scrutiny.

For further details contact Sarah Hartley.

Climate Scepticism in Australia

In collaboration with Professor Rusi Jaspal (De Montfort University, Leicester) and Dr Kitty van Vuuren (University of Queensland, Australia), Brigitte Nerlich published an article in Public Understanding of Science entitled 'Embracing and resisting climate identities in the Australian press'. Much has been written about those who doubt various tenets of mainstream climate science. Much of this literature has focused on the United States. Far less attention has been paid to Australia, despite the fact that climate change has emerged as a central issue for Australian politics and science. This article charts the development of a label that appeared early on in Australian debates on climate change, namely 'greenhouse sceptics'. It explores who uses the label, for what purposes and with which effects, and how this label may contribute to the development of social representations in the climate debate. Findings show that over the last 25 years, 'greenhouse sceptic' has been used by journalists and climate scientists to negativize those criticizing mainstream climate science, but that it has also been used, even embraced, by Australian climate sceptics to label themselves in order to construct a positive identity modelled on celebrity sceptics in the United States. The label was frequently grounded in religious metaphors that frame mainstream science as a catastrophist and alarmist religious cult. Overall, the article provides detailed insights into the genealogy of climate scepticism in a particular cultural and historical context.

For further details contact Brigitte Nerlich.


Spring 2015


BSA Prize Winner

Congratulations to Warren Pearce who was awarded 3rd prize in the 2014 British Sociological Association (BSA) Climate Change Article Prize. Warren took part in the discussion event with other winners, book authors and study group members at the BSA's Imperial Wharf office in February 2015. Warren's article in Evidence and Policy (OA) argues that carbon dioxide emissions data were an inappropriate metric for local authority climate change policy. Adopting this metric was more about managerial forms of governance and scientific framings of climate change, than its usefulness for measuring policy progress. While the data set was collected during Warren's doctoral work, he completely reanalysed it for this paper, incorporating STS literature he had looked at as part of MSciP.

Making Research and Innovation Public: a Lecture and Workshop

On 8 January 2015 Richard Owen from the University of Exeter delivered the Making Science Public (MSciP) lecture "Responsible Research and Innovation: from nice words to meaningful action". Richard drew on classic literature from STS (eg. Collingridge) and his practical experience with the geoengineering SPICE project to open up questions around the roles of anticipation, deliberation and reflection in the development of disruptive technology.

Following the lecture there was a workshop, supported by MSciP. The workshop aimed to establish an RRI network across the University of Nottingham, share understandings of RRI from different perspectives and disciplines and explore what the RRI agenda means, how we might want to respond and what support might be needed.


Autumn 2014

Find out what the Making Science Public team has been up to. See our Autumn 2014 Newsletter.


New Science and Policy Papers

The programme has two new papers on different aspects of science and policy.

Sarah Hartley and Kate Millar have published a paper in Review of Policy Research on ' The Challenges of Consulting the Public on Science Policy: Examining the development of European risk assessment policy for genetically modified animals'.

Warren Pearce and Sujatha Raman have also had a paper accepted by Policy Science on 'The new Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT) movement in public policy: challenges of epistemic governance' (in press).

Bridging the Gaps funded RRI Report

The RRI report entitled Responsible Research and Innovation – Responding to the new research agenda written by Warren Pearce, Sarah Hartley and Alasdair Taylor (UoN Chemistry) has now been released.

The report is based on interview research and documentary analysis carried out over the summer. It gives an overview of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to this emerging agenda and presents recommendations for the University of Nottingham’s future engagement with RRI.

There is an academic paper planned to follow in early 2015.

EASST 2014

Several of the Making Science Public (MSciP) team attended the conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland, 17-19 September. Both Judith Tsouvalis and Stevienna de Saille presented papers in sessions convened by Stevienna and Warren Pearce on 'Solidarity and plurality: Dimensions of 'the public' in scientific engagement'. Judith did an excellent job of pulling together and presenting a joint paper considering 'Public/publics' as powerful political actants, drawing on findings from several case studies carried out by the MSciP research fellows. The paper's theoretical angle and the studies presented received much interest and the research fellows now plan to turn the paper into a journal article.

Stevienna's talk was based on her recent fieldwork and advanced the notion of 'unruly publics', a conception that led to many constructive exchanges after the talk. Carmen McLeod was involved in a session on stakeholder involvement, where she talked about stakeholder engagement in UK government consultations on animal research, and Eleanor Hadley Kershaw based her talk on her PhD research into Future Earth in a session focused on socio-technical production of knowledge and communities. Finally, Paul Martin contributed to an open track session where he talked about epigenetics and inequalities in health. So the MSciP programme was well represented!

Arizona Study Visit

MSciP Deputy Director, Sujatha Raman left Nottingham in July for a year-long study visit to Arizona State University (ASU), where she'll be the University of Nottingham lead at the Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation ( VIRI), led by one of our honorary associates, Professor David Guston. At ASU, she will be exploring different meanings and practices of making science public including the wide-ranging activities of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO).

Sujatha plans to take forward some of the programme’s cross-cutting themes through blog posts, starting in October.

Responsive Research?

Sujatha Raman was the main author on the policy paper Responsive Research? Putting the Innovative back into Agendas for Innovation. The paper, supported by Sciencewise–ERC, with contributions from Mike Clifford, Stevienna de Saille, Danielle Gent, Sarah Hartley, Alison Mohr and Temilade Sesan, asks what kind of research should be supported by government? Can research be responsive to public needs and priorities?

Sujatha argues that we need to tackle three key questions:

  1. What is the meaning of ‘the public good’ which underlies the notion of
  2. Responsive research?
  3. What is the role of public policy in making responsive research matter?
  4. What is the model of innovation that underpins impact and engagement frameworks and is it fit-for-purpose?

There have also been a series of blog posts on the subject of Responsive Research by members of MSciP and invited guests.

Conference After-Life

As mentioned in a previous news item, members from the Making Science Public (MSciP) programme co-organised a very successful interdisciplinary conference entitled ‘Circling the square: Research, politics, media and impact’ (20-22 May) with the University of Nottingham’s Science, Technology and Society research priority group. There was a great mix of natural scientists, social scientists, representatives from NGOs and other organisations. Everybody enjoyed this mixing and mingling at the conference, but the conference also provoked some interesting and quite hard-hitting debates on the internet. During the conference, natural scientists in particular, began to blog. These blogs provoked many comments and debates as well as other blogs and, in the end, the after-life of the conference became as interesting as the live conference itself. If you want to see the debate about science and politics that happened at the conference, there is now a conference blog with videos of all the key notes and panels. If you want to delve into the after-life of the conference, there is a list of blogs. This all brings science and politics to life!

Grant success for members of Making Science Public

We are pleased to report that members of the Making Science Public (MSciP) team have been awarded small grants from various funders.

Carmen McLeod has been awarded a highly-competitive Brocher residency in Geneva in 2015 for her proposal: "Transparency, Trust, and Animal Experimentation: Exploring UK and Swiss initiatives to 'open up' biomedical research involving animals to the public." The mission of the Brocher Foundation is to host researchers from all over the world who work on ethical, legal and social aspects of medical development and public health policies. During Carmen's two-month stay at the Brocher Foundation, she will be able to work on publications in relation to her project, as well as networking with the other scholars staying at the same time. This is a wonderful opportunity and Carmen is very excited about taking up her residency next year.

Warren Pearce and Sarah Hartley, along with Alasdair Taylor (Chemistry, Nottingham) were awarded a University of Nottingham 'Bridging the Gaps: Next Generation Feasibility Award 2014' for their project 'Responsible research and innovation: challenges and opportunities for governance'. This interdisciplinary project brings together theoretical expertise in RRI, with practical experience of research, innovation and knowledge exchange to explore this challenge using the University of Nottingham as a case study. The project will develop cross-disciplinary collaboration between the Schools of Biosciences, Chemistry and Sociology and Social Policy to bridge the gap between science practitioners and social scientists studying RRI. Further it will contribute to the academic literature through an understanding of how RRI might be incorporated within a university governance framework and the potential benefits and risks of doing so. The project gets underway in early June.

Pru Hobson-West is a named collaborator on two successful grant applications led by Professor Gail Davies (Exeter). The first is to the University of Exeter (Strategy Development Fund- 5500) and the second is to the Wellcome Trust Society and Ethics Meeting fund ( 5000). Both provide travel/accommodation costs for Dr Hobson-West to take part in workshops to be held in Exeter/London with the aim of developing large collaborative grants on animal research policy and ethics in 2015/2016.

Together with a colleague from the Law School (PI), Kate Millar (co-applicant) and Sarah Hartley were awarded a grant from the University of Nottingham Global Food Security Group for a project on The Governance of Novel Foods in a Global Food System.

Communicating #climatechange on Twitter

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) report published last September was the first comprehensive assessment of physical climate science in six years. As such, it was a significant event within the often contentious climate change debate. (IPCC) report published last September was the first comprehensive assessment of physical climate science in six years. As such, it was a significant event within the often contentious climate change debate.

Members of Making Science Public, Dr Warren Pearce and Professor Brigitte Nerlich have analysed how climate change and the report were discussed on Twitter around the time of its publication.

They looked at the hashtags most frequently used within tweets about the IPCC (including #IPCC and #climate), and what these hashtags tell us about the topics people associate with climate change. They also explored the connections formed between people using Twitter and how these formed distinct online communities.

Climate change on Twitter: topics, communities and conversations about the 2013 IPCC Working Group 1 report is published today (Wednesday 9 April) in journal PLOS ONE.

The full report can be viewed online:

The research was a collaboration with Drs Iina Hellsten and Kim Holmberg from VU University Amsterdam, supported by an Open Research Area grant from the Economic and Social Research Council UK and The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, supported by an Open Research Area grant from the Economic and Social Research Council UK and The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.


Spring 2014

Find out what the Making Science Public team has been up to since our launch in February 2013. See our Spring 2014 Newsletter.


Circling the Square: Research, Politics, Media and Impact

When: 20-22 May 2014

Where: University of Nottingham, University Park Campus

The conference will explore the role of knowledge in policy making, bringing together international scholars in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, practitioners at the science-policy interface, the public and the media.

Hosted by The University of Nottingham's STS Priority Group with support from the Making Science Public Programme.

Further details.

The Fifth Paradigm: Open Innovation, Open Data and Augmented Intelligence

Public Lecture by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, University of Southampton.

We are living in an age of superabundant information. The Internet and World Wide Web have been the agents of this revolution. A Web of data offers new opportunities and challenges for science, government and business. In a very real sense the Web is augmenting our intelligence. This lecture discussed these fast moving developments and how they will impact our lives.

When: Thursday 21 November 2013, 4-5pm, followed by drinks

Where: B63, Law and Social Sciences Building, University Park

Sciencewise Report Aims to Promote Policy Discussion of Who or What is 'The Public' in Public Dialogue

Sciencewise published a policy report written by Alison Mohr, Sujatha Raman and Beverley Gibbs from the Making Science Public programme and the Institute for Science and Society. The report Which Publics? When? Exploring the policy potential of involving different publics in dialogue around science and technology, aims to stimulate discussion among policymakers and other stakeholders about how we should understand 'the public' in public dialogue to help improve the prospects for public dialogue and clarify how it can make a valuable and legitimate contribution to good governance involving matters of science and technology.

Further details.

Science in Public Conference on 'Critical Perspectives on Making Science Public'

The University of Nottingham is proud to host the 8th Annual Science in Public Conference, 22-23 July 2013.

Call for panel proposals - deadline 31 January 2013.

Proposals and informal enquiries should be sent to Dr Adam Spencer.



School of Sociology and Social Policy

Law and Social Sciences building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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