A new science for our complex world
Complex challenges such as dealing with climate change, pesticides or virus pandemics brought along the need for a rethinking of what science ‘should do’, ‘can do’ or on what science ‘actually is’ today. Science aiming to advise policy on these matters has to cope with multiple uncertainties and value-based opinions on what to do while often under pressure by politics, the public and the market to deliver evidence it cannot always deliver. One thing is clear: ‘traditional science’ relying on techno-scientific rationality, models and numbers alone cannot longer do the job. The way out is not better models and calculations in the interest of better predictions in the first place but a different approach to science as policy advice based on holistic thinking, transdiscipinarity and public participation. This advanced form of science is embedded in ethical reflection that takes into account knowledge-related uncertainties, value-based arguments and interests of various stakeholders and the future generations. It is a science that also invites scientists to be reflexive about their own research practices and their own social roles and interests. The aim of this ethically inspired ‘relativism’ is not to undermine the integrity of the scientific practice but to make it stronger, in the sense of more resilient against pressure from politics and the market to deliver evidence it cannot always deliver
These lectures are mostly done in the form of seminars for students or professionals active in the broad field of technology research and development, from out of my engagement with the Science & Technology Studies group of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre. I have already enjoyed doing these seminars at universities and conferences all over the world, and whether in Europe, the US, Japan, China, Moscow, Tanzania, India, Malaysia, Argentina or Brasil, everytime again, I could feel these ideas on the need for a new science resonate with visions of (young) scientists regardless their expertise and background.