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Science – Commitment – Authority

About the Project

As part of the so-called third mission, universities and scientists are increasingly expected to tie research activities more closely to society, be it in the form of easily understandable science communication, advice for politics and business or other forms of social engagement. However, the relationship between scientific knowledge generation and social and political engagement is quite complex.

Although scientifically proven findings are never simply objective or neutral (the inevitable decision as to which research to conduct and how to conduct it is a contingent decision), it is by no means monocausal that evidence implies a need for action, for which it is then 'only' necessary to engage. Against this backdrop, it is not only interesting to ask how universities and academics are committed and how this relates to (their) research results, but also how society reacts to this commitment and to what extent this commitment has authority.

The project "Science - Commitment - Authority", which emerged from the Working Group on Engaged Science, is interested in this interplay. It explores this overarching research interest by looking at the public engagement of scientists on Twitter as well as the reactions to it.

The starting point of the project is the practice- and performativity-theoretical assumption that scientists claim authority through their (engaged) communication as scientists on Twitter, but that it only becomes apparent in the public reactions to this claim whether their engagement is considered legitimate and whether they are authorised accordingly. Accordingly, the project is based on an understanding of authority as a leadership relationship that is recognised as legitimate (Schäfer & Thompson 2009). Authorisations for scientists' engagement are then accessible to empirical analysis, for example, when we consider,

  • to what kind of engagement scientists authorise or attempt to authorise themselves through their tweets,
  • the extent to which they make use of the authority of a university or similar - among other things by means of their profile descriptions - and
  • to what extent their public engagement is authorised by the fact that it is ratified as legitimate engagement by a large number of followers through retweeting and comments.

An analysis of the performatively produced authorisation of engaged science through (the reactions of) followers can also be looked at through the number of followers and their increase after certain tweets: What influence do (engaged) tweets have here? What does this say about the authorisation to engage?
The aim of the project is a publication in the form of a website with interactive graphics.

 

Photo: Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

 

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