Out of the laboratory: scientists discursive practices in their encounter with activists



Publication Details

Motion, J. M. & Doolin, B. (2007). Out of the laboratory: scientists discursive practices in their encounter with activists. Discourse Studies: an interdisciplinary journal for the study of text and talk, 9 (1), 63-85.


This article analyses the discursive practices of scientistsengaged in controversial science in their narrated accounts of encounterswith activists. It explores what happens when scientific credibility andauthority are challenged in a public debate on the benefits and risks of suchscience. The aim is to understand how scientists discursively negotiate andmake sense of their encounters with activists, the range of subject positionsthey claim, and how power is implicated in identification with the public.The article shows how scientists counter emotional appeals, utilizing bothscientific and public identities respectively to legitimate the epistemic andmoral authority of science and to marginalize opposing activists. It is arguedthat a unitary view of scientific identity is inadequate. Rather, in times ofpublic challenge and controversy, scientists may utilize a multiplicity ofsubject positions to achieve identification with public interests. The discursiveconstruct, public interest, is interpreted as a contested discursive space and a discursive resource for influencing public opinion.

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