The Fundamental Relationship between Science and Society
PRIME Series on Research and Innovation Policy in Europe
The issues facing society today (sustainable development, health and industrial risks, new technologies, the knowledge society and so on) concern science and technology. Mad cow disease, the controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs), nanotechnologies, our understanding of climate change, the depletion of our natural resources, the fight against new epidemics (AIDS, bird flu and so on), and the transformation of our production systems are just some of the topics that concern the human and social sciences as well as the natural, health and engineering sciences. Researchers and lecturers in these fields are making sure that students receive thorough training in these sciences (covering the state of knowledge, methods, epistemology and so on), but also on the interrelations between ‘science and society’. Indeed, these are an essential key to the dynamics of science. In science and engineering faculties just about everywhere, social science training courses have been introduced. Sometimes, the temptation is to believe that a dash of epistemology will be enough to get across to young scientists exactly what science in action is all about. Others believe that a dose of ethics is what they need to be able to deal with society-related problems. Of course, such beliefs are by and large illusory. Obviously, some kind of philosophical training has its worth, but what our young experts also need is scientific training that will allow them to get to grips with the real socioscientific dynamics. They need to be able to understand the dynamics behind the creation of knowledge and...