Understanding technoscientific citizenship in a low-carbon Scotland

Gibbs, Beverley (2015) Understanding technoscientific citizenship in a low-carbon Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Public engagement with science and technology is a vibrant topic of interest in the United Kingdom, offering promises of democratic and informed governance and a supportive and trusting public. In this context, the idea of ‘scientific citizenship’ is gaining ground, though it remains nebulous in both theory and practice with contested, overlapping and unarticulated representations of its origins, meaning and purpose. The aim of this thesis is to unpack the notion of scientific citizenship, in particular, questions relating to: who counts as a scientific citizen, what rights do they have as citizens and how are scientific citizens meant to engage with science.

This aim is achieved exploring the status of scientific citizenship in the context of public engagement with science activities and low-carbon transition strategies in Scotland. With some of the most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in the world, the generation and use of energy in Scotland is a pervasive and technology-intensive area of public policy where one can anticipate varying rationales for involving the public. This thesis draws on a wide empirical field that constitutes public engagement with low-carbon technologies in Scotland, and considers practice and policy in the light of relevant literatures.

I draw on three particular fields of scholarship to develop a novel conceptual framework that shaped the empirical investigation. Scholarship around science and publics from science and technology studies (STS), public responses to renewable energy developments from social science research and the social and political theories on the nature of citizenship were synthesised to a typology outlining five archetypes of the scientific citizen, each invoking differing understandings of publics, rights and modes of participation. The empirical phase drew on a qualitative enquiry of interviews, observation and document analysis across policy, commercial and civil sectors of society.

In response to the question of what scientific citizenship means, I argue that only when all three dimensions of membership, rights and participation are fulfilled or pursued simultaneously can the idea be invoked, and three such nexus are outlined. The idea of technoscience and cultural citizenship offers a way of reconceptualising popular science communication activity that is at risk of being dismissed as manifestations of an outdated ‘deficit model’ of publics and science. Technoscience and material citizenship offers a route into questions of governance, making the case that the materiality of a project makes a profound difference at the point of implementation, when consensus may not be possible and the rights of multiple publics to be recognised and to participate will need to be carefully negotiated. And finally, as a counterpoint, the idea of technoscience and anticipatory citizenship provides a space around emerging technologies for ongoing debates about the effectiveness of public dialogue and the relative roles of emergent and created publics.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Raman, Sujatha
Mohr, Alison
Keywords: citizenship; STS; public; publics; materiality; public engagement; science communication
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Institute for Science and Society
Item ID: 28553
Depositing User: Gibbs, Beverley
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2016 09:58
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2016 00:18
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/28553

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