Sheila Jasanoff: Science and Reason in the Public Sphere

Network Node: 
Tue., Feb. 26, 2013, 12:30pm - , 2:00pm

Science and Reason in the Public Sphere
Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard's Kennedy School (Science and Technology Studies)
Tues. Feb. 26 2013
320 Bethune College, York University, Toronto.

Why does it often seem easier to get people to trust critical opinion on the quality of a restaurant, film, or novel than to trust the opinions of scientists on a range of policy-relevant issues, such as climate change, nuclear safety, genetically modified organisms, or the causes of hunger or gun violence? In this talk, I turn for explanations to the complex relations among scientific knowledge, evidence, and persuasion in the public sphere. Drawing on comparative research across countries, I identify the challenges faced by institutions that seek to bridge uncertainty for purposes of giving policy advice. I argue that we need to theorize the constitutional position of science in contemporary democracies in order to rebuild relations of trust between experts and the publics they serve.

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. A pioneer in her field, she has authored more than 100 articles and chapters and is author or editor of a dozen books, including Controlling Chemicals, The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, and Designs on Nature. Her work explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies, with particular attention to the nature of public reason. She was founding chair of the STS Department at Cornell University and has held distinguished visiting appointments in the US, Europe, and Japan. Jasanoff served on the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Sarton Chair of the University of Ghent, and an Ehrenkreuz from the Government of Austria. She holds AB, JD, and PhD degrees from Harvard, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente.

Research Seminar Series in Science & Technology Studies. The series features bi-weekly seminars on a wide range of STS-related topics, and is sponsored by the Division of Natural Science, the Office of the Vice-President Academic, and the York University Bookstore.