Scientists in STS have long been interested in policy issues. Much work has been done by them on issues of democracy, its relationship with technoscience, accountability and public participation in the governance of innovation in rapidly transforming contexts. Many such studies have observed a reduction of nation-state centralized governance of science and innovation processes, while pointing to decentralized networks and power assemblages in the field of S&T governance. This growing attention to the processes of governance occurring outside of the official governments and nation states has contributed to a more reflexive understanding of the organization of innovation management and knowledge models inscribed in it. However, despite such meticulously implemented studies of democratic tendencies in technoscience development, the existence of other, non-democratic methods of governance and government signals the need for attention to differences within and between countries and their organization of innovation. While empirical work on politics and science and technology, as well as innovation, has been mostly focused on established liberal democracies of the West, the main focus of PAST-C research agenda is on how and by whom decisions on S&T policy are being made, represented and ‘framed’, what kinds of assumptions operate within these processes, how choices are being legitimised and stakes negotiated in various kinds of societies. Within this frame, PAST-C faculty works on different spheres:

Medical innovations beyond the West

Since 2015 we have been working with colleagues from Maastricht University on a collective monograph about politics and medical innovations in non-Western world. What types of power and conflict are dealt with in various societies beyond the Western high-income world, including those with transitional and hybrid political regimes without long established democratic traditions and institutions? What kinds of responses to the politicisation of (bio)medical science and technology are being constructed and institutionalised?

Several research fellows of PAST-C concentrate on studying medical innovations from the STS perspective. The first project is investigating social embeddedness of drug research and development in Russia. The second one considers Russian maternity care system from viewpoint of interrelations between technology, state policy and doctor’s decision-making.

Read more about projects here.

Innovation and Technology in non-Western world

We are also interested in studying the varying political features in different technology fields. Our research projects focusing on non-Western innovation system investigate, first, how Russian top-down innovation policy enforce close positions between academic and industrial partners, a development that is often discussed as ‘coerced innovation’ and, second, how the available technological equipment and how different human agents shape such innovation systems.

We are also conducting a 4-years project on academic journals as organizations. It studies how the dependence on professional, commercial and state resources influences journal’s organizational behavior in Russian sociology (e.g. the choice between networks and open peer review as different forms of governance).

Another direction of research is devoted to the issue of inclusion of marginalized groups of society in innovation system, i.e. informal innovation, problems with their recognition, institutionalization, and diffusion. The research has focused on India and Russia. This educed new challenges to inclusion connected with the specifics of each policy regime. Networking with scholars from China, Africa, India and Brazil allows extending this agenda for BRICS.

Read more about projects here and here.

Urban infrastructural transitions in post-socialist countries

Another research field concerns end-user interactions with urban infrastructure in post-communist context. One research project on smart utility meters draws attention to the ways in which end-users of smart technologies in centralized city infrastructures can undermine the proposed policy tasks of ‘commodification’ of public utilities, i.e. transformation of these quasi-public goods into economic goods.

A related research focus lies at the intersection of STS (particularly ANT) and mobilities studies. The project City, Transport Mediation, Social Justice studies the practices of mundane critiques and justification within sociotechnical assemblage of marshrutkas (Russian type of collective taxis). Recently we launched new two-year collective project aimed at sociotechnical analysis of the consequences of public transport infrastructure transformation in the preparation to the World Cup 2018 that will be held in Volgograd in 2018.

Political economy of universities

The focus of the project is on universities and other research facilities being the playground where different agents interact with each other and try to use academic arrangements to achieve their goals. Among these agents are:

  • students whose goal is to get high-quality education, achieve higher social status, enjoy migration opportunities and student privileges (the ratio may vary);
  • officials those goal is to report successes of the higher education to the higher officials as the evidence of successful implementation of adopted policy;
  • disciplines and other forms of academic classes, parties and status groups whose goal is to feed off academic institutions.
  • university management whose goal is to ensure financial stability of the university and keep their position which requires careful maneuvering around interests of other interest groups;
  • professional experts whose goal is to market themselves to the above actors and stroke their interest, and
  • others.

As evident from the above, the project adopts a realistic, non-sentimental approach to studying scientific and university policy which suggests that it is not so different from any other policy. In both instances policy is the domain of self-righteous people, who suspect others of pursuing their own sordid interests, and grabbing as much control over situation as they can.

Read more about projects here.