Science and Public Policy

One of the most striking developments of contemporary governance has been its increasing engagement with the world of science. This is no longer only the case for the special domain of research and development policy where public authorities seek to actively promote scientific and technological innovations. Within the recent decades nearly all domains of public policy-making have become profoundly “scientized”: If it concerns the negotiation of a climate policy agreement, the endorsement of a new medical therapy, the release of a genetically modified organism, a treatment scheme for sexual delinquents, the regulation of financial instruments, a public aid program to combat poverty or the transfer of technologies to developing countries – there is barely any area of governance where policy-makers do not base their decisions on the scrutinized evaluation and consultation by some sorts of scientific or professional experts. At the same time, worries about “fake news” and “post-truth society” have caused new uncertainties about who has the authority to speak authoritatively to politics. The evolution, structure and wider social implications of this tightening science-policy nexus are the theme of this program.

What are the institutional channels through which science is articulated and incorporated into policy-making processes? How does this influence the relations of power under which policies are negotiated? How does science achieve and maintain its credibility in the policy arena? And how does all of this work back into the organization, the research agendas and the methods of the science themselves? By addressing these and related questions, this specialization program provides the students with the reflective resources necessary to understand and scrutinize the ways in which public policy operates under the conditions of an emerging knowledge-society. This specialization will prepare the students for a broad spectrum of professional functions related to the formulation, execution, and the consequences of science-based policies.

To address these issues, the specialization combines insights and methods from science and technology studies from the core of the ESST-program with those of related fields of public policy analysis (political science, political sociology, institutional economics). The specialization deals with the science-policy interaction as a general phenomenon of contemporary society. This specialization allows students to concentrate on case studies of specific interest to them but analyzed using a mix of tools provided through lectures, seminar discussions, and assignments.

The participants in this specialization will gain in-depth appreciation of different methods, theories, and practical tools to deconstruct complex policy choice problems and to identify and evaluate viable policy alternatives. By the end of this training module the participants will:

· Understand the various ways in which policy problems can be framed

· Be capable of applying a systemic perspective to policy problem solving

· Be capable of analytic reasoning and communication

The participants will be introduced to the various approaches, concepts, and methodologies of public-policy-analysis, and will be trained in applying them in a case-based way. At the same time, the participants will learn how to communicate their expertise concisely and convincingly.

Schedule of Introductory course
The specialization is divided into two parts. The first part consists of five intensive weeks of lectures and seminars (February – March) during which the students will become fully acquainted with the fundamentals of science-policy analysis, and its implications for practical decision making in various contexts of governance and organizational practice. For the remaining five months, the students will work, under the supervision of Maastricht University’s FASoS instructors, on a thesis in a thematic area of their choice within the science policymaking arena. Students will have their own supervisor from among the FASoS academic staff members who will work with the students on a one-to-one basis to carve out a thesis project that, in most cases, will involve both empirical work and theoretical reflection.

As part of this specialization there is a possibility for an internship at the Rathenau Institute in The Hague. The Rathenau Institute promotes the formation of political and public opinion on science and technology. To this end, the Institute studies the organization and development of science systems, publishes about social impact of new technologies, and organizes debates on issues and dilemmas in science and technology.

Second, students have the opportunity to write their thesis under the supervision of one of the staff members of the International Centre for Integrated Assessment and Sustainable Development (ICIS), at the Faculty of Humanities and Sciences. ICIS addresses complex issues facing the planet and its inhabitants. Its aims are to conduct research and provide education in the fields of integrated assessment and sustainable development.

Third, the ESST programme in Maastricht also collaborates with The Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), an interdisciplinary institute at Leiden University which studies the dynamics of science, technology and innovation.

Finally, the ESST-specialisation is based on close collaboration with the staff members of the Spiral Research Centre at the Université de Liège, Belgium.

Language of Instruction
The specialization will be given in English. All literature for the core sessions and the sessions themselves are in English. All Faculty members will use English as the medium of communication with the students throughout this course.

Minimum and maximum number of students: Minimum is 4
Maximum: to be decided

Core literature

  • Alasuutari, Pertti (2014): Epistemic Governance. An Approach to the Politics of Policy Making. European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, 1, 1: 67-84. 
  • Barry, Andrew (2001). Political Machines. Governing a Technological Society. London: Athlone.Bijker, W., Hendriks, R., & Bal, R. (2009). The Paradox of Scientific Authority. Boston: MIT. Pp. 1-46; (71-106); 107-135.
  • Callon, Michel; Lascombe, Pierre; Barthe, Jannick (2009): Acting in an Uncertain World. An Essay on Technological Democracy. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Chilvers, Jason & Matthew Kearnes (eds.) Remaking Participation. Science, environment and emergent publics (pp. 32-63). London: Routledge.  
  • Dean, Mitchel (1999) Governmentality. Power and Rule in Modern Society. London: Sage.
  • Frickel, Scott & Kelly Moore (eds) The New Political Sociology of Science (pp. 3-35). Madison: University of Wiskonsin Press. 
  • Jasanoff, S. (2004). States of Knowledge. The Co-production of Science and Social Order. London: Routledge.Jasanoff, S. (2005). Designs on Nature. Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Jasanoff, S., & Kim, S.-H. (2015). Dreamscapes of Modernity. Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  • Jasanoff, Sheila & Hilton R. Simmet (2017) No funeral bells: Public reason in a ‘post-truth’ age. Social Studies of Science, 47 (5): 751-770. 
  • Owen, R.L. & M. Bessant & M. Heintz (eds.) (2014): Responsible Innovation. Managing the Responsible Emergence of Science and Innovation in Society. Wiliey-Blackwell.  
  • Voss, Jan-Peter & Richard Freeman, eds.  (2016): Knowing Governance. The Epistemic Construction of Political Order. London: Macmillan .  Research and Policy 

Examples (past) thesis topics
· An Issue Mapping of Online Engagement with Neuroplasticity

· The Role of Epistemic Communities in Setting UK Drugs Policy

· A Comparative Study Between Philosophy of Technology and Science and Technology Studies

· The Creation and Negotiation of Credibility Surrounding the Dutch Choices Food Label

· Obduracy in Maastricht Urban Parking Structure and Policy

· The Social Construction of the Scientific Persona of the European Commission’s Chief Scientific Advisor

Name and email address specialisation coordinator
Dr. Jens Lachmund,

List of involved staff members
The staff members involved in the ESST programme participate in the 
Research Institute for Science and Technology Studies

Prof. Dr. Marjolein van Asselt: risk governance / future studies, foresight, scenario-analysis / dealing with uncertainty

Prof. Dr. Karin Bijsterveld: history and sociology of science and technology / contemporary history / history of sound and noise / technology and music / gender and technology / elderly and technology / history of old age / network society

Dr. Conor Douglas: Science and Technology Studies / Sociology of Science, Technology, Health and Medicine / Qualitative Research / Scenario Studies

Dr. Anique Hommels: vulnerability of ICT-infrastructure / standardization / emergency communication / obduracy of sociotechnology

Dr. Jens Lachmund: environment / cities / nature / Europe / bodies and medical practices / space and place

Dr. Vincent Lagendijk: history of technology / water history / dams and river development / history of development / history of electrification / infrastructures / European integration / international organisations

Prof. dr. Harro van Lente: Sustainability Assessment / Sociology of Expectations / Responsibility and Emerging Technologies 

Prof. dr. Cyrus Mody: Commercialization of academic research / countercultural science and technology / responsible research and innovation (RRI) / nanotechnology

Dr. Jessica Mesman: ethnography of Knowledge Practices; Risk and Safety Studies; Patient Safety; Intensive Care Unit, Innovation – Exnovation;

Dr. Bernike Pasveer: The management’ of knowledge(s) in complex situations and processes; studying and articulating how the design of development programs frame how change takes shape;
learning and knowledge in international cooperation

Dr. Geert Somsen: ideological uses of science / history of scientific internationalism / science and nationalism / science and socialism / politically active scientists / history of conferences

Dr. Ragna Zeiss: standardization, regulation and governance / uncertain risks / science & technology in/for developing countries / science-policy boundary work and knowledge brokerage/ regulatory and regulated science / water / sanitation / public health / environment

Web link to University of Maastricht website and information accommodation
The best starting point for housing in Maastricht is Another option could be the University Guesthouse, see

For information on the city of Maastricht, see tourist information.

For information on the city of Maastricht, see tourist information.