What is engagement, and can we do it better?

Centre for Science Studies at Lancaster University would like to invite PhD students and early career researchers to a 1-day workshop on methods, practices and engagement in STS.

Monday 23rd of March 2020 9.30 – 16.00

The Storey Institute, Lancaster

While engagement has always been part of STS scholarship, as methodological or reflexive, political practices, we have in recent years seen an increased awareness from STS scholars towards engagement in its many forms, including interventions, meetings, and collaborations – not least due to the changing world orderings including societal and political forces creating divisions and seeking to undo many relations and connections (Chilvers & Kearnes 2015; Marres 2013). While this has opened up for important research agendas and experiments, scholars have also cautioned against an overly-positive view of an engaged STS (Irwin et al. 2012). Against a background of increased societal policy-orientations toward public engagement, the risks of instrumental uses of engagement that mainly positions the STS scholar as a legitimiser of certain technoscientific fields have been highlighted (Viseu 2015). It is thus ever more important to explore engagement in its many forms, drawing on insights from STS about engagement, and how we can move it forward.

This workshop will provide a space for grappling with questions about engagement practices and their underlying normativities. We will ask speakers and participants to reflect on, share and discuss experiences of engagement, its challenges, tensions and problems. As academics are increasingly expected to ‘do engagement’, our hope is that the workshop will provide an opportunity to learn about and explore STS tools and sensibilities that can be put to productive use in the engagement with social and political practice, and with practitioners, policy makers, publics and activists.

The workshop will be structured around two panels of invited speakers, and each panel will be followed by discussion and small group exercises. Readings for the small group exercise in the afternoon will be distributed to participants prior to the workshop.

The workshop is free to attend. Refreshments and lunch will be provided.

As places are limited, we ask interested PhD students and early career researchers to submit a short description of their research and why they would like to participate in this workshop (max. 500 words) to this email address: ecr.workshop@gmail.com by February 3rd, 2020. You will hear from us shortly after this date.

We hope to see you in Lancaster in the spring.


Workshop organisers – Lisa Lindén, Mette Kragh-Furbo and Péter Füzesi.


Invited speakers include:

Jason Chilvers, Professor of Environment and Society (University of East Anglia)

Jason Chilvers is the founding chair of the Science, Society and Sustainability (3S) Research Group at UEA and is a co-director of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC). Jason is a science and technology studies (STS) scholar and geographer concerned with the changing relations between science, innovation and society in contemporary democracies, particularly in environment and sustainability contexts and in response to issues of energy, climate change and emerging technologies. Within these settings, a key focus of his work has been to reimagine and remake public participation and democracy from a more relational and constructivist STS perspective, theoretically, empirically, methodologically and in practice. Jason received the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) Amsterdamska Award in 2018 for his co-authored book Remaking Participation: Science, Environment and Emergent Publics (Routledge, 2016).

Niki Vermeulen, Senior Lecturer in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (Edinburgh University) and visiting researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University.

Niki specialises in science and innovation policy and the organisation of research, with an emphasis on scientific collaboration in the life sciences. As part of her effort to make Edinburgh’s large-scale history of science course more interactive, she developed www.curiousedinburgh.org to showcase Edinburgh’s rich scientific heritage. This project mushroomed beyond expectations and won the Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence of Engaging the Public with Science (2017). Next to her academic work, she has experience as a policy advisor and consultant in science and innovation policy. Niki is a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy of Scotland and is currently working with the Scottish government to develop the Scottish marine science strategy, also paying attention to public engagement

Rebecca Willis, Professor in Practice, Lancaster Environment Centre (Lancaster University)

Rebecca Willis has twenty years’ experience in environment and sustainability policy and practice, at international, national and local level. In 2009 Rebecca founded Green Alliance’s Climate Leadership Programme, an initiative to support Members of the UK Parliament. With Lancaster University, she is conducting research into political responses to climate change. She is an Expert Lead for Climate Assembly UK, the Citizens’ Assembly established by the UK Parliament. Rebecca is a Trustee of the New Economics Foundation and an adviser to the National Lottery’s Climate Action Fund. Website: www.rebeccawillis.co.uk

Andy Yuille, Research Associate and Lecturer, Sociology (Lancaster University)

Andy’s research is focused on public participation in environmental decision-making and bringing different knowledges together. His PhD was based on long-term ethnographies with two neighbourhood planning groups, working with them throughout the processes of developing their plans, engaging with their communities and getting the plans adopted. He spent the ten years before his PhD working with environmental NGOs and community groups in campaigning and advocacy work, acting as an interface between publics and decision-makers.

Jonnet Middleton, Researcher and activist (Lancaster University)

Jonnet Middleton (Lancaster, UK / Havana, Cuba) describes her art practice/research as ontowork. Ontowork is the labour of forcing the limits of possibility in everyday fields of perception and material existence. She lives in/as ontoexperiment, a lifelong experiment in being/doing/thinking otherwise based on pledges and protocols. Her doctoral thesis (2018) is entitled ‘Mending the sensible: Ontoexperiments for a politics of matter’.

Lena Theodoropoulou, Researcher, Sociology (Liverpool University)

Lena’s research interests include drug use and recovery, as well as the birth and history of drug treatment services. Her empirical research explores the social and cultural associations of drug use and how these are reflected on the drug recovery programmes in the specific sites of Liverpool and Athens. This research project draws on her professional experience as a recovery worker in Greece and the UK and focuses on the exploration of the caring practices that are shaped as part of the drug recovery process.



Chilvers, J. and Kearnes, M. (eds.) (2015). Remaking participation: Science, environment and emergent publics. London: Routledge.

Irwin, A., Jensen, T. E., and Jones, K. E. (2013), ‘The good, the bad and the perfect: criticizing engagement practice’. Social Studies of Science 43(1): 118-135.

Marres, N. (2013), ‘Why political ontology must be experimentalized: On eco-show homes as devices of participation’. Social studies of Science 43(3): 417-443.

Viseu, A. (2015), ‘Caring for nanotechnology? Being an integrated social scientist’. Social Studies of Science 45(5): 642-664.



By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.