Wednesday, 24 November 2010

New rules of engagement?

By Catherine Lyall

On a recent visit to Edinburgh, David Guston from Arizona State University spoke about ‘anticipatory governance’, describing it as building capacity now for what might happen in the future, as a way of understanding the political and operational strengths and weaknesses of emerging science and technology.  Others are talking of ‘tentative governance’(1), suggesting that governance modes need to be tentative in order to respond to the uncertainties and dynamics associated with such activities.

Innogen’s research has examined many facets of current governance structures for the life sciences (see, for example, The Limits to Governance).  What we have learned is that – while a governance approach expands the political vision and the assemblages of actors involved in policy making – this focus on participation also runs the risk of creating a misleadingly consensual picture. 

This leads to a significant ‘governance gap’ when participation and decision-making take place in different locations.  Some may even argue that ‘governance’ has gone too far and that we have forgotten about the legitimate role of the state in decision-making.  Synonymous with hesitancy and timidity, ‘tentative’ may not be the right adjective in this situation if we are seeking to engender greater confidence in decision-making processes. 

Innogen’s current work endeavours to address these limitations by developing a more creative set of alternatives that offers some new rules of engagement – look out for our new policy brief and working paper coming soon. 

(1) Tentative Governance in Emerging Science and Technology, 28 & 29 October 2010, University of Twente, The Netherlands

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