The Changing Political Economy of Research and Innovation: Public Policy, Commercialization & Neoliberal Technoscience
9-10th December 2013 | York University, Toronto, Canada
‘Science’ is increasingly tasked with kick-starting the moribund economy, underpinning
a new techno-economic paradigm, while tackling multiple, overlapping global challenges
(e.g. climate change, food security, low-carbon transition). However, the cultural and
political role of science, the political economy of its funding and the impacts of
technoscientific innovation are all highly contested. How science and innovation can
and do contribute to economic growth and solving global challenges are not clearly
understood and, conversely, it is clear that the current dominant policy understanding of
these relations is inadequate on at least four fronts.
First, the so-called ‘linear model’ of innovation persists as the basis of most current
science policies even as it has been comprehensively dismantled by social and
economic studies of science and innovation. Second, the globalization of research and
innovation contradicts the national focus of much science policy with the emergence of
global innovation networks, international science collaborations and mass, distributed
open innovation and open science initiatives. Third, the inadequacy of current
understanding of the political economy of scientific research is especially evident
regarding the global challenges since many are ‘wicked’ problems that defy resolution
through techno-fixes. Finally, the commodification, commercialization and privatization
of scientific research have been key pillars of the dominant political-economic project of
Regarding this last issue in particular, neoliberal globalization is in crisis with significant
backlash against ‘free markets’ and a groundswell of political opinion calling for
‘responsible capitalism’. These trends profoundly challenge the IP-intensive, neoliberal
global model of science-based innovation that has dominated in recent years. Yet,
notwithstanding these trends in the broader political economy, the neoliberalization of
science in the global North is proceeding at an undiminished, if not accelerated, pace.
The changing relations of scientific research, innovation and political economy are thus
a key site for the investigation of the future of technoscience in terms of its contribution
to socio-economic development and the public accountability of scientists and policymakers.
These issues form the basis for a two-day workshop to be held at York University,
- Toronto, which will seek to address four broad questions:Why do simple scientific and innovation narratives have such political and policy power?
- How do public policies, projects and innovation promote particular, neoliberalforms of technoscience?
- What are the ways we can re-conceptualize global problems in order to challenge and go beyond solutions based on neoliberal technoscience?
- How might technoscience be democratized and de-commodified so that it better serves collective or public interests?
Professor Philip Mirowski (University of Notre Dame – author of ScienceMart and Never
Let a Dire Crisis Go to Waste)
Dr Erik Conway (tbc - Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California – co-author with Naomi
Oreskes of Merchants of Doubt)
Professor Alison Hearn (Western University, Canada)
Paper Submission Deadline
Please email your abstracts (250 words max) to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by 31st July 2013. Feel free to contact us before the deadline to discuss your ideas.
Dr Kean Birch, Department of Social Science, York University, Toronto, Canada
Dr David Tyfield, Department of Sociology, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
More information online here.