Call for papers for the 1st “Social valence of science” Conference, June 26-27 2021

Keynote Speaker: TBA

Abstract Due Date: Monday 24 May 2021


This conference brings together academics and practitioners from a wide variety of fields, for a collaborative, multidisciplinary exploration of the place of science in a world stricken by a pandemic. Abstracts are peer-reviewed. Themes and issues for the conference include, but are not limited to:


Stream A          Trusting the science

When a vaccine for Covid-19 is achieved, we will recover our health and our social lives. Yet there is resistance to the science underlying recovery, from face coverings to social distancing and from tracking apps to vaccines. Some resistance is understandable. Reasons to distrust science may be found in controversies over GMO, fracking, pesticide use and vaping. But easy internet access to information, of which some is erroneous, has devalued expertise. The pandemic has shown us the Dunning Kruger effect in presidents, a welter of fake cures, and fierce debates about serious vaccine alternatives such as plasma. How do we communicate the trustworthiness of science? Vaccine hesitancy is just one problem we face, in overcoming Covid-19. The speed of rollout will be limited by the scale of need and logistics, the lack of public health and production infrastructure in developing nations, and the financial impact of lockdown on capacity building. Access will be complicated by wealth disparities in all nations, by perceptions of vaccine safety, and by corporate ownership and IP questions which slow technology transfer to the developing nations. Humanitarian and philanthropic efforts cannot meet the scale of this need. When choices are made about vaccination priorities, they will elicit accusations of unfairness. We welcome papers exploring any element of these challenges.


Stream B          Science as a practice

Covid-19 has generated an infodemic of doubt, misinformation, myth and conspiracy. Yet distrust of the traditional authorities reflects not just internet misinformation and personal bias. It is an effect of the long-standing failure of players such as big pharma and agrobusiness to act in the public interest, and their proven history of deception and partisanship. The public now views government spokespeople, think tanks, talking heads, policy wonks and experts as politicised and manipulative. They see research coopted by corporations for financial gain. Science seems like another battleground in the race for power and profit. Thus public and rental labs using open source bio-engineering equipment proliferate, as citizen scientists, biohackers, wetware hackers, biopunks, DIY gene editors, and the DIYbio movement are taking science into their own hands. Was this moment inevitable? As the practice of science goes public, how can we separate elements of science from human experiences like aspiration, dreams, questions, fantasies and insights? Should the practice of science be regulated?  Can we reformulate integrity, accountability, ownership and equity for the 21st century?


Stream C          Biosecurity

The pandemic has highlighted concerns with biosafety and biosecurity. Viruses evolve. They are also engineered. Regardless of the role of the Wuhan Biosafety Lab in this pandemic, its safety record, and the late policy response of the Chinese government to regulating biosecurity on a national level underlines the same containment concerns for other countries with upper-level biosafety labs. Wuhan scientists had their safety training in a Texas Level-4 lab known for its own history of safety problems. Going forward, ensuring containment is crucial to the viability of the research needed to manage serious pathogens. Potential challenges include risk assessment, the accidental escape of existing toxins or pathogens, the weaponisation of pathogens engineered for gains-of-function, bioterrorism, environmental damage, effective control of the global movement of biological agents, management of how this knowledge is shared, global communication instead of secrecy, limiting military applications, and the lack of any effective international regulatory framework. We welcome papers on any element of these issues.


Stream D          Data analytics

In order to explore these issues, we are soliciting research cooperation from academics and researchers,  practitioners, business people, ethicists, and others. These papers use data from structured interview questions, and evaluate this data with content analysis software. Conference participants interested in cooperating with this effort will publish papers in a journal special issue with HEDRA advisory board members.  If you are interested in this, please click here.


The conference welcomes abstracts from academics and researchers working in linguistics, medicine and healthcare, philosophy and ethics, government and policy, business and management, social sciences and humanities, and in interdisciplinary and interprofessional fields, and others. We also welcome experience narratives, case studies, and situation reports from members of the public, people working in any related field, and specialists. You can find more information on this here. Participants will be able to watch a plenary session, and participate in a live-stream roundtable, and a conference roundtable discussions.


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