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How do democracies know? Knowledge in the Public Sphere in the 21st century

27 Juni 2018

SDN Pre-Conference Symposium

Wed., 27.6.2018, 5 PM
TUM Main Campus – Theodor-Fischer-Hörsaal (0503.EG.360), across from Luisenstrasse 39

  • Panelists: Roland Fischer (Vice President, German Research Foundation DFG)
  • Maarten Hajer (Universität Utrecht/UNEP International Resource Panel)
  • Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard University)
  • Richard Rottenburg (Martin Luther University Halle, Wits University Johannesburg)

Over the past 5 years, science, expertise, and facts – and the institutions traditionally associated with them – have come under seemingly surprising attack, both in Germany and beyond. Populist political movements are increasingly rejecting expert advice on what citizens should want, and predictions about the consequences of political decisions. The acceleration of media cacophony has led some to proclaim the arrival of a ‘post-truth’ era and to question the future of scientific authority. At the same time, publics are increasingly demanding the right to co-shape research and innovation, with divergent answers across countries on such issues as gene editing, drones, AI, or the Uber-ization of the economy.

Like many other countries, Germany is trying to position itself through both its high-tech economy and its scientific preeminence. At the same time, Germany’s particular political culture frequently produce uniquely ‘German’ policy answers to global challenges in science and technology – e.g. its strict stances on privacy and environmental concerns, or the desire for stable, coalition- and consensus based governance.

This symposium seeks to discuss what democracies should know, how they should know, and to what extent the interactions of experts, publics, and policy-makers are currently being reconfigured. Focusing particularly on Germany’s role and experiences within the recent upheavals, we aim to chart the research terrain in the intersection of science, technology, society, and public policy, and explore common research agendas that could inform how the institutions of science and politics can respond to these challenges.


27 Juni 2018


München, Deutschland