The general aim of this conference is to compare, assess and further develop different approaches and explanatory models to the multiple roles of science, expertize and the professions in contemporary knowledge societies. ’Knowledge society’ (Stehr 1984, 1996) is defined by the increasing amount of new ideas and rapid transformations in science, technology, organization, economy and culture. It is advanced by a specific social ‘complex’ (Parsons), primarily involving scientists, experts and professional occupations, the tasks of which are to develop, take responsibility for, apply and distribute new knowledge and knowledge-based practical skills. Various scholars have given other names to this ‘complex’ like ‘system of professions’, ‘professional landscape,’ ‘layer’, and even ‘class.’ Combinations of scientific knowledge and expert knowledge on the one hand and knowledge-based practice on the other constitutes the basis of knowledge society. Currently, this layer represents 15 – 20 % of the total labor force in most industrialized nations. It possesses key positions in regards to discovery, innovation and development, and for distribution and implementation of knowledge; its practitioners are the agents and carriers of knowledge. It is not possible to understand contemporary social development without substantial insights into the functions and dynamics of this layer, of its ‘essence’. Simultaneously, this layer is clearly unexplored by the social sciences. This conference addresses the contemporary knowledge layer from three dissimilar but related themes.
(1) The first theme concerns relations between science, experts and professions. In a linear model, professions can be conceived as implementers and distributors of scientifically produced knowledge. The theme discusses how theories of regularities, mechanisms and interventions are converted to practical actions that become routinized and are subsequently parts of everyday, generally known knowledge and ways of procedure. The purpose of this theme is to describe, analyze and perhaps problematize the linear model in various knowledge areas.
(2) Combinations of science, experts and professions have been called ‘knowledge groups’, ’epistemic communities’, ’knowledge regimes’, or even ’truth regimes’, in areas like health, technology, economy, social integration, social control, education, academic research, and more. The second theme addresses this social layer or system in its entirety in order to study relations between such groups; what are their common denominators and conditions, how do the relations between them develop, especially relations of cooperation and competition, in Andrew Abbott’s and Pierre Bourdieu’s sense. Previous research has demonstrated that groups in various fields can mobilize for competing about the ’ownership’ of certain problems; in other words there are struggles for jurisdiction within and between fields.
(3) The third theme positions knowledge groups – scientist, experts, and professionals - in broader social and political contexts in order to analyze their roles in various national sectors, and also in governance beyond the nation-state. The focus will be on the one hand on knowledge groups and (political, economic) power holders of various kinds, on the other relations between knowledge groups and civil society, democracy, markets. In both cases, these groups may be understood as a society’s supreme asset points to the most advanced knowledge and skills; expert groups constitute mediators between knowledge and society.
These three themes are here presented as separate but are linked in a number of different ways, making it crucial to consider all of them for explaining the basic functions of knowledge groups, and thus also the development of modern societies. The conference is open to social scientists, STS-scholars, and philosophers interested in the topic. There will be specially invited speakers, to be presented later on. The conference is also a graduate course, that is, a limited number of Ph. D.-students are welcome to participate and can present their own papers that will be examined and given points transferrable to their own universities.