Reading “Not just neoliberalism…”

Berman, E. P. (2014). Not Just Neolib­er­al­ism: Econ­o­miza­tion in US Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Pol­i­cy. Sci­ence, Tech­nol­o­gy & Human Val­ues, 39(3), 397–431.

The title of this paper says it all real­ly. It’s good though to have a cogent argu­ment about the rela­tions between ide­ol­o­gy, pol­i­cy and the changes in how sci­ence is being done. I for one very eas­i­ly slip into an accusato­ry refrain when talk­ing about and usu­al­ly crit­i­cis­ing what I’ve seen to be the neolib­er­al (non)interventionist and pol­i­cy direc­tion in edu­ca­tion and sci­ence. Eliz­a­beth Berman presents a much more mea­sured posi­tion and con­vinces me that it’s bet­ter under­stood as an econ­o­miza­tion, as she calls it, where the broad­er shift is towards pri­ori­tis­ing sci­en­tif­ic research and inno­va­tion vis-a-vis the econ­o­my and specif­i­cal­ly see­ing them as eco­nom­ic inputs. This recog­nis­es the ten­sions and com­pli­ca­tions and the com­pet­ing inter­ests that have run through the chang­ing sta­tus of the sci­ences (in the US, but sim­i­lar­ly, I think, in the UK).
Some­thing I think Berman leaves open is the rela­tion­ship between sci­ence and inno­va­tion. She makes it clear that sci­ence and inno­va­tion become inex­orably linked when sci­ence is seen in eco­nom­ic terms. I want, though, to bet­ter under­stand the nexus. Indeed, but con­flat­ing sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy (“S&T” as Berman refers to it), I think there are fur­ther com­pli­ca­tions here that need unrav­el­ing, ones point­ing to the entan­gle­ments of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy, and where progress or inno­va­tion sits between (or around) them. Can we talk of tech­nol­o­gy with­out inno­va­tion? If S&T are two-parts of a unit, how can we dis­en­tan­gle innovation?


After a tremen­dous about of work with Lara Hous­ton, I’m delight­ed to have final­ly gone live with our data pol­i­cy site: It attempts to detail, in var­i­ous for­mats and cuts, the dis­cus­sions at the day of dia­logues on data, pol­i­cy and civic life, held at Microsoft Research Cam­bridge. More than this though, we want the site to pro­mote fur­ther dis­cus­sion and expand the ways we might think of the rela­tions between data, social/civic life, and pol­i­cy. For me, the inspi­ra­tion here has been the work a few of us have been doing with Teni­son Road in cam­bridge and a com­mu­ni­ty’s efforts to make sense of and use its data. I’d like to think some­thing small and local could make a dif­fer­ence in these big discussions

Dialogues on data, policy and civic life

Next Tues­day a few of us at Microsoft Research are host­ing a day-long dia­logue to dis­cuss the inter­min­glings of data and social/civic life. We’re bring­ing togeth­er a mix of social the­o­rists, com­men­ta­tors and pol­i­cy advis­ers with the hope of draw­ing out pos­si­bil­i­ties for doing pol­i­cy mak­ing (as well as tech­nol­o­gy design) dif­fer­ent­ly. Our pre­am­ble for the event fol­lows (a print­able PDF can be down­loaded here): (more…)