Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New blog: Circling the Square

As reported earlier, the University of Nottingham hosted a conference at the end of May with the title 'Circling the Square: Research, politics, media and impact'. It was organized by the Science, Technology and Society Priority Group which I am leading.

The conference explored 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.

The conference was a resounding success and created lively discussion on the floor and online. The online debates have been documented here and here. The new blog presents the presentations and discussions from the floor. Plans are underway to repeat the conference as an annual event.

With some delay we have now been able to make available videos and slides from the conference in a multimedia format. These are being posted on a weekly basis on our new blog.

So far the following sessions have been posted (more to follow soon):

1 Research and Policy making, featuring the opening keynote speech from Professor Brian Collins, Director of the Centre for Engineering Policy at UCL and former Chief Scientific Advisor to two government departments (Transport 2006-11; Business Innovation and Skills 2009-11). This was followed by a panel discussion with Daniele Fanelli, Sheila Jasanoff, Beth Taylor and Chris Tyler.

2 Research and the media, featuring a keynote speech from Dr Andy Williams, Lecturer at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and former RCUK Research Fellow in Risk, Health and Science Communication (2008-10).

He addressed recent research into UK journalists and their sources and what it tells us about the quality and independence of science reporting. His presentation touched on changing working conditions in journalism and the use of PR tactics by scientists (and universities!), and was followed by questions from the audience.

The panel discussion examined this problem further, our four panelists were David Colquhoun, Athene Donald, Felicity Mellor, and Jon Turney.

Lean back, watch and enjoy. Blog comments are most welcome!


Pekka Pirilä said...


Can I expect that some of the upcoming presentations would explain, what made several physicists so upset about the idea that science is a social process (my brief formulation of the problem). I have read through Philip Moriarty's post and ensuing discussion, and participated in discussion at And then there's physics.

I genuinely cannot understand the reaction in spite of being a physicist myself. What they are imagining of loosing by understanding the point of view you brought up at Moriarty's. To me your way of thinking is totally obvious, and in no way against the value of physics and other similar sciences. I wonder, whether you have some explanation.

A totally different issue in my thinking is discussing the relationship between climate science and climate policy related decision making. That discussion has direct practical implications, and it's fully natural that different people reach different conclusions on such questions. (That's probably true also about you and me.)

@ReinerGrundmann said...


You will see that statements made on panel one (about the question if science can be value free) have sparked a discussion which then continued on various blogs.

While it is nice to hear that you as a physicist are in agreement with me I do not have an explanation for other physicists' objections, only speculation. There seems to be a lot of metaphysical baggage carried around.

The nice thing about our multimedia format is that you can directly engage with specific comments or statements. So I would recommend you leaving your comments on the Circling the Square blog.