Clustered Knowledge

Examining the Situating Science knowledge cluster at King’s

By Jane Caulfield -December 12, 2011

In the modern world of science, technology and society are inextricably connected and ignoring that relationship could be considered as academically irresponsible. Since 2007, King’s actively tackles this connection by hosting Situating Science – a national group of researchers and scholars seeking to understand science within a human context. More specifically, Situating Science is a knowledge cluster that brings social scientists and humanists together with researchers in the natural, formal and applied sciences to push disciplinary boundaries and facilitate knowledge exchange.

SituSci is funded by a seven-year Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant and is comprised of six research nodes that are dotted across the country. The project’s main core is at King’s and is under the direction of project manager, Dr. Gordon McOuat. McOuat describes SituSci as a program that develops “networks of strategic knowledge”. He says that SituSci works “under the rubric of the philosophy, history, social studies and policy understanding of science in its context.”

International partnerships and increased knowledge exchange

On Dec. 12, researchers from SituSci will be leading workshops at the Sciences and Narratives of Nature: East and West conference that is being hosted by the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities at Manipal University in Manipal, India.

McOuat says that because university education in India is dominated by science and technology, interest in social science and humanities can be generated if they ground it in science. As a result, Manipal University wants to establish their own cluster, and looks at SituSci as a model.

The conference will bring the top researchers and scholars from Canada, India and South East Asia together to examine how different styles of reasoning arose in both an Eastern and Western context. This marks the second stage in a multi-stage collaborative and international initiative between scholars in the field of Science and Technology Studies.

Planning for the future

To ensure that the valuable research and collaboration continues after the designated seven years, the national cluster wants to establish a permanent institute. McOuat said that the International Centre For The Study of Science in Context will be somewhere in Canada, but its location has yet to be determined. Each interested node was invited to present a proposal outlining why their location would be the most appropriate home for the institute. King’s, in conjunction with Dalhousie, has put its name in the hat.

Dr. Melanie Frappier is one of the managers for the Atlantic node of SituSci and a professor at King’s. She feels that King’s and Dalhousie would be the best place for the institute, referencing King’s History of Science and Technology Program. Frappier says that King’s advantage is due to the fact that HOST is “truly interdisciplinary,” and they have “built implicit relationships with the faculty of science, the faculty of architecture, and engineering.”

Clustering Students

SituSci recognizes that the dialogues they are facilitating amongst scholars are incredible learning opportunities for students. Kai Miller, a biology and HOST student, was one of a handful of students who attended and live blogged the Interface of Science and Policy Conference at the University of Ottawa earlier this year. Miller says that SituSci has done a lot “build and stimulate a science studies community that is interesting and engaged.” Miller cites courses that have been developed from SituSci conference topics and says that SituSci has “done a lot to get me excited about HOST.”