21. International relations of science, technology and innovation (policies)

Convenors: Ewert Aukes, Tim Flink, Stefan Kuhlmann, Gonzalo Ordóñez-Matamoros, Charlotte Rungius and Mitchell Young.

Session type: Full paper and speed talk session.


The internationality of science, technology, innovation (STI) and their respective policy fields have been offering puzzles to generations of scholars and practitioners, parts of which can be attributed to the dichotomous tensions of collaboration and competition (or even conflicts) on one hand, and universal versus particularistic actions and values on the other hand. Moreover, international STI (policies) have been going through specific paradigmatic phases: no matter if national innovation systems and technology gaps, transatlantic and European STI integration policies for socioeconomic and security rationale or grand societal challenges are concerned. History in mind, some of the newest international STI policy concepts even appear to be specifically designed as “retro” (e.g. mission-oriented R&I).

But where do we stand nowadays? How can we make sense of the current relation between international relations and STI policy, and not least between the policy sphere and its potential effects on the actual international (social) relations of academic research? How can research on international STI policymaking contribute to fundamental questions of regional, national and international governance, for example regarding development goals, science diplomacy, responsible research and innovation, disruptive and transformative innovation as well as to technological and democratic sovereignty? How do we see the field of international STI policymaking related to more fundamental challenges, such as the persistence and rise of authoritarian superpowers amidst deteriorating planetary conditions and great parts of the world’s societies? Is STI a solution or a problem in these respects, does it help alleviate tensions between states and societies or does it work as a fire accelerant? And how do STI policy scholars position themselves amidst a plethora of old (but still structuring) and new concepts, oodles of empirical data, and rapidly changing conditions?

Besides addressing the afore-mentioned substantive puzzles, the contributions we invite can, but must not, include reflections on the role of impact ambitions, researchers’ self-conceptions and research methodologies at the crossroads of STI policy research and International Relations. In other words, what motivates and drives current research in STI policy research and International Relations? How do researchers understand themselves and imagine their roles, e.g. as distant observers, or as “caretakers” assisting international developments to be headed in the right direction, or any other role? How do general concerns and specific assessments of situations or developments (such as the role and relevance of STI, global threats and challenges) play into that role understanding? How do worldviews (in the sense of episteme) matter for the self-conceptions of researchers and for the research they do? Indeed, how are these worldviews and pre-conceptions linked to mandates”, ambitions, and objectives of research and how do they influence or even tailor insights and recommendations? Finally, how are these and other paradigmatic and methodological preconceptions related to our possibilities of sense making and answering the questions raised in the second paragraph? Is research in these fields of interest even imaginable and functional without a set of specific ambitions and preconceptions, some of them linked to the very subjects of research? If not, how openly and carefully do we want/need to bring these preconceptions to the table? 

With these questions in mind, we invite scholars to round table sessions who want to reflect jointly on these issues, based on theoretical/conceptual and empirical contributions. The track is deliberately meant to map the research going on at the intersection between international relations and STI policy and bring together a group of scholars approaching the proposed puzzles from various angles.