Helga Nowotny - Between Day Science and Night Science – and Why We Need Both - 18/03/2015

UCSIA, BSTS/FWO & PSW/UAntwerpen present: ‘What kind of knowledge for the knowledge society?’

In the last decennium, ‘valorisation’ of scientific knowledge has become a key issue in the knowledge society. Academic research should be designed and conducted in such a way that important economic and societal goals are met. But how does this call for a more direct applicability and societal usefulness square with traditional scientific values such as autonomy, curiosity and uncertainty? What kind of knowledge do we need to address the big societal challenges facing us? How can we think or conceptualize the various roles of scientific research in contributing to these challenges? And what can insights from the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) learn us?


19h00:   welcome UCSIA

19h05:   introduction by Gert Verschraegen, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, University of Antwerp & the Belgian Science Technology and Society network

19h15:   lecture by Helga Nowotny 'Between Day Science and Night Science – and Why We Need Both'

Following the distinction first made by Francois Jacob I will expand his pertinent observation beyond the lab. Day science is also the public face of science – its undisputed achievements, but also the promises it is under pressure to make of more to come, more aligned to political and societal goals and to be delivered faster. Night science continues to be indispensable. It grants the space for scientific imagination to roam freely and more time freed from constraints. By its nature, night science is hidden from public view. It is negated by key performance indicators and other NPM measurements. It is invisible in official policy documents. Yet, if the pressing societal challenges are to be met, we clearly need both. The question is how to organize their interface? In the same person, in the same research group or organization? In mega-consortia, through open access or citizen science? And how to integrate the knowledge of the social sciences and humanities?

I will focus on three crucial transition mechanisms that currently negotiate between day science and night science: peer-review based publications that separate the inherent uncertainty of research from the temporal but certified certainty of its results and findings; the emphasis on scientific talent which is meant to enlarge the pool to select from; and the actual research funding practices that only reluctantly concede the unpredictability of fundamental research. In order to tackle the challenges ahead these transition mechanisms need to be re-visited. Pushed by larger developments we may be closer to a paradigm change in the social organization of knowledge production than many surmise.

20h00    Panel discussion

  • Hans Harbers, sociologist and philosopher, free-lance journalist (moderator)
  • Helga Nowotny, Chair of the European Research Area (ERA) Council Forum Austria and Former President European Research Council
  • Anton Froeyman, researcher, Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, University of Ghent
  • Jean-Pierre Timmermans, cell biologist, President of the Research Council and Industrial Research Council of the University of Antwerp
  • Jean Paul Van Bendegem, mathematician and philosopher, Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Free University of Brussels

About the speaker

Helga Nowotny  is Professor emerita of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich and a founding member of the European Research Council. In 2007 she was elected ERC Vice President and was ERC President from March 2010 until December 2013. In January 2014 Prof. Nowotny has been appointed Chair of the ERA Council Forum Austria.

She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University, NY and a doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of Vienna. Helga Nowotny is a leading figure in STS, science and technology studies. Her last book (together with Giuseppe Testa) is Naked Genes. Reinventing the human in the molecular age, MIT Press. Her many awards and honours include honorary doctorates from the Weizmann Institute of Science, the University of Leuven, University of Lancaster and University of Twente. She continues to serve on many international Advisory Boards and selection committees. Among other, she is a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Accademia dei Lincei and a long standing member of the Academia Europaea.