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Local is Beautiful? Governing Science-Society Relations in Europe

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Gonçalves, M.E., and Castro, P. (2009), Local is Beautiful? Governing Science-Society Relations in Europe, Portuguese Journal of Social Science 8(2).
In recent years, the introduction of the notions of dialogue and participation in European Union (EU) institutions’ discourse concerning science policy signals a change in both the vision of the sciences and of the science-society relation, not unrelated to the EU strategy to improve its legitimacy through the democratic implication of citizens in the knowledge society. But to what extent are current EU and member states’ policies translating these desiderata into practice? How significant has been the shift from the conception of science as objective knowledge to the conception of science as an open-ended process of research? How far has the move from pedagogical to dialogical methods of producing and popularising science and technology gone? In an attempt to answer these questions, this paper provides a comparative review of policies in the field of the public understanding of science (PUS) in six EU member states, based on the results of OPUS (Optimising the Public Understanding of Science), a European-funded research project. Our overview endorses the observation that, notwithstanding the EU’s homogenising discourse, significant differences remain in the conceptual framings, as well as in the practical efforts carried out at national level in this area.
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