Steering with big words: articulating ideographs in research programs

TitleSteering with big words: articulating ideographs in research programs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBos, C, Walhout, B, Peine, A, van Lente, H
JournalJournal of Responsible Innovation
Date Published2014/05/04
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number2329-9460
AbstractNowadays, science should address societal challenges, such as "sustainability", or "responsible research and innovation". This emerging form of steering toward broad and generic goals involves the use of "big words": encompassing concepts that are uncontested themselves, but that allow for multiple interpretations and specifications. This paper is based on the premise that big words matter in the structuring of scientific practice and it empirically traces how three "big words" "sustainability", "responsible innovation" and "valorization" (a term closely linked to knowledge utilization) ? steer research activities within a Dutch research program of nanotechnology that is explicitly related to societal challenges. To do so, the theory of articulation is extended with the concept of ideographs. We report on how the top-down steering ambitions of policy are countervailed by the bottom-up dynamics and logics of researchers. We also conclude that when ?big words? are used in an organizational and administrative setting, it changes their effects.