The role of ethnography in aligning science with society

04.02.2019

0 comments

Incorporating societal values and aspirations in science is central to the theoretical framework of RRI but implementing such objectives in practice is less obvious and does not happen automatically. Debates on incorporating responsibility in scientific work many times suggest embedding ethnographers to work alongside natural scientists and engineers. But how does cooperation between different disciplines happen? What are the challenges involved? And what can ethnography actually deliver? In the article “Ethnography and interdisciplinary work: experiences from the US and Brazil” (available in open access at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25729861.2018.1521091) I discuss some of these challenges through an analysis of empirical cases from the US and Brazil. By discussing previous ethnographic work among scientific teams, I argue that challenges in cooperating across disciplines involve more than gaps in communication, but also difficulties in bridging diverse epistemic cultures and understandings of what is at stake in any particular problem. In the article, I argue for a more active place for ethnography in multidisciplinary cooperations, which usually relegate social scientists to a secondary position or to “observers”. The article aims to contribute to fill a gap in our understandings of how RRI can be implemented in science, a topic that deserves further explorations and empirical work.