Highlighted Selections from:

Understanding 'Anticipatory Governance'


DOI: 10.1177/0306312713508669

Guston, D. “Understanding ‘Anticipatory Governance’.” Social Studies of Science (2013). Web.

p.2: Anticipatory governance is ‘a broad-based capacity extended through society that can act on a variety of inputs to manage emerging knowledge-based technologies while such management is still possible’. It motivates activities designed to build capacities in foresight, engagement, and integration – as well as through their production ensemble. These capacities encourage and support the reflection of scientists, engineers, policy makers, and other publics on their roles in new technologies. This article reviews the early history of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the United States, and it further explicates anticipatory governance through exploring the genealogy of the term and addressing a set of critiques found in the literature. These critiques involve skepticism of three proximities of anticipatory governance: to its object, nanotechnology, which is a relatively indistinct one; to the public, which remains almost utterly naïve toward nanotechnology; and to technoscience itself, which allegedly renders anticipatory governance complicit in its hubris. The article concludes that the changing venues and the amplification within them of the still, small voices of folks previously excluded from offering constructive visions of futures afforded by anticipatory governance may not be complete solutions to our woes in governing technology, but they certainly can contribute to bending the long arc of technoscience more toward humane ends. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.3: In a review of the Handbook of Science and Technology Studies (Hackett et al., 2008), Fuller (2009) hangs the fate of Science and Technology Studies (STS) on anticipatory governance, which he describes as a ‘strategy to facilitate the acceptance of new technosciences by inviting people to voice their hopes and concerns in focus groups, science cafes, and computer-based interactive spaces before the innovations are actually implemented’ (p. 209). ‘To the cynic’, Fuller writes, ‘anticipatory governance looks like public relations. The challenge facing the next edition of the handbook will be to prove the cynic wrong – that STS is not reducible to the formula “Follow the money”’. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.5: I hope this article will be neither simple primer nor unenforceable catechism, but rather the next stage of a robust consideration of how scholarship and practice can address emerging technoscience in a timely and influential way. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.5: When Congress held hearings to authorize NNI, Langdon Winner (2003) criticized the academic distance from which the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genomics research were conducted, urging the House Science Committee not to create a ‘Nanoethicist Full Employment Act’ and to forego the careerconscious social science and cozy relations with scientists and engineers that such efforts had produced. Instead, he encouraged the creation of new institutions and practices for the rigorous investigation of difficult questions of technological choice, the distribution of the risks and benefits of technoscientific innovation, and the early inclusion of public voices in deliberations about the direction of nanotechnology. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.6: In particular, the solicitation held that ‘[e]xamining the ethical and other social implications of these societal interactions is necessary, in order to understand their scope and influence and to anticipate and respond effectively to them’ (emphasis added); it also sought a ‘long-term vision for addressing societal, ethical, environmental and educational concerns’ (NSF, 2004: 8). -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.6: At least some STS research on nanotechnology has followed the money. Shapira et al. (2010), using bibliometric techniques, demonstrate that publishing in the societal aspects of nanotechnology does not begin in earnest until 2005 and that the earlier publications are dominated by references to visionary science and scientists rather than to concrete NSE research on one hand or societal research itself on the other.6 .6 In other words, most empirical and potentially cumulative social science work on nanotechnology did not begin until after funding did. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.7: In wondering whether STS ‘follow[s] the money’, however, Fuller is not asking for an empirical answer. Instead, he implies that STS that does follow the money has some particular kinds of explaining to do. Such explanations could address a range of issues: the quality or productivity of the research being conducted under lavish public sponsorship; the value added by large-scale and coordinated funding versus small-scale, investigator-initiated funding; the distribution of resources (and therefore power) within the field of STS resulting from the commitment of such sums; and the potential complicity, driven by resource-dependency, with the promotional, technoscientific agenda of sponsors. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.8: But they also endorse the somewhat more anticipatory ‘Futures Commissions’ in which ‘citizens analyze trends, develop alternative scenarios of the future, and establish recommendations and goals for the community’ (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993: 230). -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.8: A deeper policy lineage for anticipatory practices exists alongside this scholarly lineage. Historian of science Charles Weiner (1994) surveys many of these, focusing on ‘several major obstacles impeding efforts to anticipate and prevent negative consequences’ of the Human Genome Project (p. 34). Among the earlier examples he identifies are discussions among biologists in the early 1960s that focused on the prospect of human genetic engineering. The same topic led the US Senate to ‘consider the need for a national commission’ to ‘anticipate, to examine in advance, and to report on the legal, ethical, and social implications of biomedical research’ (Weiner, 1994: 37; emphasis original) -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.9: Delving deeper still for precedents turns up Detlev Bronk, who recounts how he testified to the US Congress in support of the original bill to create what became NSF. He broke with his elite science colleagues to endorse a role for the social sciences in the proposed independent agency. ‘Competent social scientists should work hand-in-hand with natural scientists, so that problems may be solved as they arise, and so that many of them may not arise in the first instance’ (Bronk, 1975: 413). It took nearly 20 years from its mid-century founding for NSF to create a substantial social science presence (Gieryn, 1999), and the social sciences subsequently developed on a disciplinary rather than an integrated model. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.10: The desire for such a vision was of course born with frustration over the Collingridge (1980) dilemma: how can technologies be self-consciously governed when, in the laboratory, they are too inchoate but, once in the market, too interwoven with economic and social interests? -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.10: As described in Barben et al. (2008), foresight is a methodologically pluralist approach to plausible futures with an emphasis on such methods as scenario development that provide a more diverse and normative vision compared with other methods that seek to identify a single, most likely future. Engagement refers simply to encouraging the substantive exchange of ideas among lay publics and between them and those who traditionally frame and set the agenda for, as well as conduct, scientific research. Integration is the creation of opportunities, in both research and training, for substantive interchange across the ‘two cultures’ divide that is aimed at long-term reflective capacity building. Importantly, anticipatory governance also sees these capacities as being developed in concert – what Barben et al. (2008) call an ensemble – in order to inform and reflect on one another. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.10: To engage with this mode of analysis is not to acquiesce to neoliberal ideology that would focus on governance to the diminishment of government. Rather, it is self-consciously meant to recognize the complicated political economy of technoscience that cannot be captured in the crude dichotomies in which public debates are often cast, between, for example, the deterministic position that the die is cast and hence that our only decision is about how to adapt, and the quixotic precautionary position that we should forego learning about that of which we know little because of how little we know. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.11: Here we find a multitude of mechanisms mediating the extremes – treaties, regulation, funding and subsidies, licensing and restrictions, liability and indemnification, intellectual property and licensing, testing, standards, public understanding and engagement, public action and protest, codes of conduct, routinization, laboratory practice, and so on – through which we do in fact govern, however poorly, much of the technoscience with which we live. -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.13: Given the generative power of unfettered and unreflective R&D, it seems absurd to argue for less societal research. And while I cannot have it both ways – anticipatory governance cannot be both sufficiently weak so as to avoid reifying nanotechnology and sufficiently robust to alter its trajectory – the anticipatory activities are not so much directed at channeling scientific prophesy as they are at amplifying the still, small voices less often heard in the innovation process (see also Guston, 2013). -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.15: Finally, a third critique holds that anticipatory governance is itself technoscientific, a recognizable heir to traditional technology assessment and captive of an age of technoscience that cannot help but reproduce itself in all its microcosms. ‘It is the very idea of taking hold of the future’, writes Nordmann (2010: 10), focusing on a different aspect of anticipatory governance than does Fuller, ‘that characterizes the transgressive hubris of the technosciences’. Yet, as Sarewitz (2011: 97) replies rhetorically, ‘What lies between an implausible commitment to control and a fatalistic embracing of passivity?’ -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014

p.16: CNS-ASU’s Socio-Technical Integration Project postulates a laboratory-based decision-maker confronted with an ‘embedded’ social scientist or humanist who enters the laboratory saying not, ‘I’m here to help you solve your problems’, but rather querying in a Socratic way: ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Why are you doing it that way?’ and ‘What do you hope to get out of it?’ While social scientists in the project have served as ‘collaborators’ (e.g. Calvert and Martin, 2009) with scientists and engineers, their ongoing role in defining and refining their laboratory’s research has been an independent product of their development of contributory expertise and their role as Socratic interlocutor (Calleja-López and Fisher, 2009). -- Highlighted mar 18, 2014