, Volume 6, Issue 1-2, pp 125-129
Date: 08 Jan 2009

Towards more confidence: about the roles of social scientists in participatory policy making

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Abstract

From June 26 to 27, the workshop “Ironists, Reformers, or Rebels? The Role of the Social Sciences in Participatory Policy Making” took place at the Collegium Helveticum of the UZH/ETH in Zurich. The organisers’ motivation was the apparently missing involvement of social scientists in public engagement processes. This impression persists because, while social scientists often observe public debates or develop participatory methods for public policy-making, they rarely take part in those processes themselves. A closer look at ethics commissions, expert committees or public hearings concerned with science and technology issues shows natural scientists, physicians, lawyers and the occasional philosopher. Sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists, on the other hand, are often not involved. Because of this imbalance, the organisers’ aim was to bring together scholars and researchers from different areas of the social sciences to consider the role of their disciplines in public policy making. This article will focus on some of the ideas about specific roles of social scientists in participatory policy-making, discussed at the workshop, and their implications and give a commentary on some future prospects of the social sciences.