Public engagement in biosciences and biotechnologies: reflections on the role of sociology and STS
Approaches to public engagement in biosciences and biotechnologies have been informed by work done by sociologists and science and technology studies (STS) scholars, in particular their critiques of traditional elitist and technocratic approaches to science policy. In this article, we analyse one attempt at institutionalising public engagement in Australia, and focus on points of tension between different actors. We explore the roles of social scientists in policy and in public engagement, and the potential for opening up discussions and decision-making about the biosciences and biotechnologies. We reflect on the difficulties for social scientists in maintaining a critical yet constructive voice and draw attention to care as a possible ethico-political commitment and practice that may create opportunities and spaces for improving public engagement and policy making.