Angelika Hilbeck

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility ENSSER, based in Berlin, Germany


Title: Inconvenient or post- truth - an account from a science minefield



The restructuring of the techno-sciences towards serving increasingly corporate rather than public interests has instilled a culture of overblown promises (promissory sciences), and biased research funding and policy schemes. Yet, this promissory science culture is not balanced by a moderating culture of ownership (responsibility) and critical reflection when failing to deliver on the promises or when faced with increasing uncertainties and complexity or by a likewise 'holistic' adverse impact assessment. Instead, the fabrication of counter-truths (or alternative facts) delivered with aggressive tactics of attacking data, evidence or dissenting perspectives that are inconvenient for corporate science has become 'normal'. These tactics aim for dominance over the narrative-making process and the mainstreaming of a particular 'truth' and over who gets to decide and influence policies. Consequently, science as the privileged ’fact- or truth provider’ for governance is being questioned by members of the public who discover the tactics behind the 'truth narrative' making process - which are neither new nor recent - but are left only with few science experts with credibility in the public eye who could explain and unravel the different perspectives on 'truth' to the society. I will draw from examples of three decades of research experience in my field of science - (transformation of) agro-food systems and biotechnology - where alternative truths and the struggle for dominance, suppression of dissent and reductionist interpretation of 'inconvenient' facts and evidence have been the normality from the get go. I predict that post-truth narratives will last and indeed flourish as long as the involved science communities are neither capable nor willing to face up to this state of affairs in their own ranks and how this erodes public trust in both science and democracy including its institutions.


Short Bio:

Angelika Hilbeck is a Senior Scientist and Lecturer at the Institute of Intergrative Biology at ETH Zurich, heading the Group Environmental Biosafety & Agroecology. Since 30 years, her research centers around agroecology and biosafety issues. Her research and conceptual work includes environmental risk assessment, post-release monitoring and fundamental ecological research with genetically modified plants. Through numerous research and capacity building projects she is engaged in several developing countries. Further, through her international work with EU, UN, governmental and non-governmental organisations, she became increasingly involved in broader issues of technology development towards a democratically legitimated, sustainable global future and actively contributes to the debate on biosafety, international agriculture, hunger and poverty alleviation. She is co-founder and current board member of the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER - former Chair) and Critical Scientists Switzerland (CSS). She is a member of the board of directors of the Swiss development organisation 'Bread for All'.

Lapologang Magole

University of Botswana


Title: A Tragedy of the Commoners: Can Post Normal Science (PNS) explain the evolution of common property resources management in Botswana?



Studies on community based natural resource management (CBNRM) in Southern Africa conclude that the programme has had as many failures as successes, attested by different cases that I shall present. My talk however will reflect on the observation that the programme plays another perhaps unintended role. It has become a platform of interaction for three main NR actors; the communities, donors and process facilitators. In my talk I will argue that the failure of interest originates in the communities that often struggle to maintain projects beyond these interactions indicating that the interactions are not empowering to them. Can the post normal science framework explain this failure? The empowerment process appears to ignore the complexity embedded in socio-ecological systems and competing claims for the stakes therein. Holistic empowerment manifests itself in the ability of the community to mobilise or source further support (technical or financial), when initial support stops. It is therefore imperative that their values and norms should take center stage to their empowerment in which outsiders participate.


Short Bio:

Dr Lapologang Magole is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Botswana’s and a Regional Development Planner by profession. Her research interest and work focuses on natural resources governance in general with particular interest in water policy. Dr Magole is an environmental policy analyst and policy planning process facilitator. She has vast experience in stakeholder management for participation in development and policy planning. She is also an advocate for integrated approaches to learning, planning, innovation and development where all knowledge is harnessed and used to the extend possible. Through her research and application (development work) she has interacted with resource users at grass roots level, donors, policy makers and implementers and has come to appreciate multiple interests and aims with regard to natural resource management and use.

Roger Strand

Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen & European Centre for Governance in Complexity


Title: Post-Factual or Post-Normal?



Many intellectual positions with the prefix "post-" have made efforts to problematize, criticize, deconstruct and perhaps soften distinctions between truth and falsity, facts and values. What now, when public and political discourse seems to be flooded with lies, alternative facts and allegations of fake news? While some of our university colleagues engage in Marches for Science and possibly against its perceived enemies, I shall try to reinterpret the diagnosis of "post-factual politics" from the intellectual perspective of "post-normal science".


Short Bio:

Roger Strand (b. 1968 in Norway), originally trained as a natural scientist (dr. scient., biochemistry, 1998), developed research interests in the philosophy of science and has worked on issues of scientific uncertainty and complexity. This has gradually led his research into broader strands of social research, philosophy and broader issues of policy, decision-making and governance at the science-society interface. Strand works as Professor at the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and Humanities and the Centre for Cancer Biomarkers at the University of Bergen, Norway, and is Adjunct Professor at Dept. of Biotechnology and Food Science, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway.

Fanny Verrax

INSA Lyon, Département des Humanités, and UMR CNRS 5600 (Environnement, Ville, Société)


Title: Trust and Transparency: two inseparable values?


Abstract: Of trust and transparency
While scientists march to re-establish popular trust in science in the post-truth era, others warn that there is a crisis in science. What needs to be done to regain trust in science? Do we want to trust science and how? Often the political answer to a crisis of trust is to offer more transparency. Are trust and transparency inseparable values? I will identify two models for trust in science and technology, and argue that a shift needs to be made from a holistic-transitive ("trusting someone or something") model to a propositional-intransitive ("trusting that") model.


Short Bio:

Fanny Verrax is a philosopher and a STS scholar (Dr. Phil in 2013). She currently works as a temporary research and teaching associate at INSA Lyon and is a guest researcher at the Senter for vitenskapsteori, University of Bergen. Her research explores the relationship between science and society at large, with a strong focus on professional ethics, environmental issues and waste management, as well as popular culture representations.