Kuhlmann et al RP 2019

By Stefan Kuhlmann, Peter Stegmaier and Kornelia Konrad

2019 we published an Introduction (open access) and Special Section in the journal Research Policy.

While actors in public policy, industry, or civil society organisations attempting to ‘govern’ Emerging Science and Technology (EST) may try to promote desired effects, often the actor constellations and institutional arrangements, deliberations and decision-making are too complex to achieve the aims directly. Actors cannot be sure whether classical-modernist policy practices or new deliberative ones are likely to prove more effective. No easy solutions are in sight. Actors often seem to undertake ’explorative’, ‘underdetermined’ or even ‘ad hoc’ movements in a search for the right constellations and opportunities, strategies and breakthroughs.

Our conceptual Introduction and the Special Section examine different modes of ‘tentative governance’ of EST. The notion of tentative governance appears particularly relevant in the case of EST, given all the uncertainties and dynamics related to the scientific base, technologies, possible innovations, societal benefits and potential risks. While one may argue that such uncertainties are not peculiar to EST, it is nevertheless apparent that in industry, society and public policy the level of awareness of these uncertainties has increased, largely as a result of experiences with former emerging technologies (e.g. genetically modified organisms, nuclear technology). Governance is ‘tentative’ when public and private interventions are designed as a dynamic process that is prudent and preliminary rather than assertive and persistent. Tentative governance typically aims at creating spaces for probing and learning instead of stipulating definitive targets.

Our paper suggests a heuristic to understand and position ‘tentative governance’. One main finding is that the inherent contingency of EST requires rather tentative approaches to governance, though often in combination with more definitive modes of governance, with the exact mixture involving a balancing act.

The articles of the Special Section include:

Kuhlmann, S., Stegmaier, P., Konrad, K., The tentative governance of emerging science and technology—A conceptual introduction (open access)

Budde, B., Konrad, K., Tentative governing of fuel cell innovation in a dynamic network of expectations

Hopkins, M.M., Crane, P., Nightingale, P., Baden-Fuller, C., Moving from non-interventionism to industrial strategy: The roles of tentative and definitive governance in support of the UK biotech sector

Lyall, C., Tait, J., Beyond the limits to governance: new rules of engagement for the tentative governance of the life sciences

Fisher, E., Governing with ambivalence: the tentative origins of socio-technical integration

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