Partisan Scholarship in Technoscientific Controversies: Reflections on Research Experience

Vasilis Galis, Anders Hansson

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Several academic traditions have addressed epistemological objectivity and/or partisanship in the study of technoscientific controversies. On the one hand, positivist and relativist scholars agree that the political commitments of the social researcher should not impinge on scientific enquiry, while on the other hand, feminist and Marxist scholars not only take stands in diverse technoscientific debates, but even claim their agendas to be more credible than those of orthodox scientists. Such perspectives stress that all research is partisan in one way or another because it involves questions of who controls, manipulates, and establishes decisions, facts, and knowledge. With this in mind, it is possible to identify different forms of partisan research including capture by participants, de facto and overt partisanship, and mercenary scholarship. These different forms of partisan scholarship are characterised by differences in the motives underlying epistemological choices of research topic and method, personal commitments to the fields studied, use of research findings in controversies, and positioning of results in wider debates. Two examples help to illustrate partisan scholarship: first, a study of new technologies for managing climate change (carbon dioxide capture and storage); and second, the construction of the new underground metro system in Athens and its accommodation of accessibility standards. Both cases entail partisan positions and raise similar concerns about the orthodox epistemological assumptions underpinning sociotechnical systems, especially when it comes to technoscientific controversies. Supporting STS partisan scholarship, therefore, enables greater social and democratic engagement with technoscientific development.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number3
Pages (from-to) 335–364
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • Partisan STS scholarship, situated epistemology, technoscientific controversy, Carbon Capture Storage (CCS), disability, accessibility, Athens metro


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