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In this space, members are invited to post their current research projects and any associated results and links for publicising by sending them to the convenor Richard Hindmarsh (apstsn@gmail.com) to upload.

For more news of members’ research, please see the 2017 APSTSN Newsletter Sept-Oct, especially the publications section.

Research Project News (as reported in 2017)

 

TO DEVELOP MĀORI KNOWLEDGE BASED FRAMEWORK AND ASSOCIATED MODELLING TOOLS TO ASSIST THE TE ĀTIAWA KI WHAKARONGOTAI TRIBE IN COLLABORATIVE FRESHWATER DECISION-MAKING WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Researcher: Mahina-a-rangi Baker

New Zealand’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2014 has required local government to set water quality standards through collaboration with tribes and the wider community to improve freshwater management in New Zealand. This project aims to ensure that Māori values and knowledge can contribute to and inform that process of freshwater decision-making.

A framework and associated modelling tools will be developed and tested by the tribe of the candidate in their collaborations with local government and the wider community. The project will provide an approach for integrating Māori and western scientific knowledge systems to ensure that decision-making can adequately reflect the full spectrum of values that New Zealanders’ associate with freshwater.

The PhD project of Mahina-a-rangi Baker is being conducted at the People, Planning and Environment School, Massey University Palmerston North, New Zealand, and funded through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Project ‘Ngā Tohu o te Taiao’.


ON THE POTENTIAL OF NEW AND SOCIAL MEDIA FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM IN AUSTRALIA

Researcher: Diletta Luna Calibeo

My PhD project (at Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia) is informed by environmental politics, STS, new media studies, and social movement theory. I focus on the use of new and social media by the Australian environmental movement to better protect the environment. Issues include climate change, water and air pollution, waste disposal, deforestation, salinisation, and excessive consumption. My case studies are coal seam gas (CSG) mining and logging of old-growth forests.

In two recent publications, my principal supervisor (Dr Richard Hindmarsh) and I have advanced the new concept of ‘digital environmental activism’, which refers to environmental activism that complements offline actions with the use of new and social media. For example, as demonstrated in environmental campaigns organised by actors such as GetUp! or The Wilderness Society, or in the case of environmental protest actions organised at the grassroots level, by citizens protesting coal seam gas and land clearing and deforestation in Australia.

The potentiality of new and social media for environmental activism and campaigning to better protect the environment is challenged by several issues. Key international ones are increasing concentration of new and social media ownership, and digital surveillance. Locally, in Australia, several other social media issues have emerged during recent interview fieldwork as also important, including, for example, abusive behaviour and ‘trolling’, and fake news.

Abusive behaviour’, here, refers to social media attacks on environmental activists by social media users using violent or threatening language to intimidate them or express disagreement; similarly, ‘trolling’ refers to provocative and inflammatory statements with intent to discredit campaign posts or disrupt the conversation. In turn, ‘fake news’ consists of fabricated stories and news (often through sensational headlines) by anyone online, created to obtain political or economic gain by misleading readers about an issue.

In sum, the research aim is to address the posed benefits of new and social media in relation to how and to what extent, the environmental movement in Australia is using these new digital technologies to protect the environment, and how successfully in regard to the limitations of it.


UNDERSTANDING THE IMPEDIMENTS TO UPTAKE AND DIFFUSION OF TAKE-HOME NALOXONE

Research team
Professor Suzanne Fraser, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Australia
Dr Robyn Dwyer, La Trobe University/National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Professor Paul Dietze, Burnet Institute
Dr Joanne Neale, King’s College, London
Professor John Strang, King’s College, London
Dr Adrian Farrugia, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University
Ms Renae Fomiatti, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University

Description
In 2017 the Social Studies of Addiction Concepts research program based in the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Australia began work on a nationally funded research project on take-home naloxone. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and save lives. It is available in Australia both on prescription and over the counter, yet distribution to people at risk of overdose or connected to them is weak. Programs providing take-home naloxone to opioid consumers exist in some Australian cities, but uptake remains minimal. The reasons for this are not well understood.

This qualitative research project works with key insights from Science and Technology Studies to better understand this pressing issue. Working from an understanding of the mutually constitutive relationship between material objects, subjectivity and society, and of take-home naloxone as a technological object that ‘affords’ rather than determines certain outcomes, the project conceptualises overdose an event made through the enfolding of many phenomena, including social relationships, discourses and technological objects.

Interviews with people who consume opioids are currently underway, and interviews with relevant health professionals will begin later this year. The personal stories of overdose and naloxone use collected in these interviews will be used to produce a high quality online resource presenting text, audio, and re-enacted video extracts, the aim being to complicate and expand public discourses of opioid use and overdose. It will also raise awareness of take-home naloxone along with questions about who is responsible for overdose and how Australia can tackle it in broader and more equitable ways.

The analysis is situated within an understanding that take-home naloxone is shaped by ongoing processes of marginalisation through which individuals or groups are stereotyped, homogenised, ignored, silenced and dehumanised on the basis of their identities, associations, experiences and environments. As such, the project conceptualises the proposed website as a demarginalising intervention in the social production of overdose, as well as a means of addressing overdose conceived as a health and medical problem.

Working with new notions of health, medicine and expertise informed by Science and Technology Studies, this project will develop new knowledge about the place of take-home naloxone in health policy and contribute to fundamentally equitable and respectful enhancements in uptake.

To find out more about this project, and other research conducted in the Social Studies of Addiction Concepts program, go to: addictionconcepts.com


ETHICS, POLICY, AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORKS OF PRECISION MEDICINE

This project is coordinated by Professor Guoyu Wang from Fudan University, Shanghai, was recently funded by the key special projects of the Ministry of Science and Technology. It’s the first time that China’s Ministry of Science and Technology included the humanities and social sciences research in its key special projects.


COMPOSTING FOOD SCRAPS FOR FOOD PRODUCTION

The 2015-2018 inter-disciplinary sociology, microbiology, and carbon accounting research project (funded by CRC for Low Carbon Living) is a collaboration between UniSA and Swinburne University and funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living.

It pilots new distributed models for reducing GHG and achieving environmental, health and economic co-benefits from composting household and commercial food waste for the purposes of growing food. Across different urban precincts, models of onsite and offsite composting are being compared in terms of: 1) GHG reductions 2) the quality of the compost product (public health and soil quality issues) 3) people’s engagement with the composting process and compost product.

See: foodcompostfood.org

CONTACT US If you are interested in our research, getting involved, or would like more information, please contact: Dr Vivienne Waller, Project leader, Swinburne University of Technology + 61 3 9214 5752 vwaller@swin.edu.au foodcompostfood.org


MAKING CLINICAL SENSE

Funded by the European Research Council (Starting Grant), 2016 – 2021

Based at Maastricht University, the Netherlands

Principal Investigator: Anna Harris

Digital technologies are reconfiguring medical practices in ways we still don’t understand. This research project, entitled “The birth of the digital doctor? A comparative anthropology of medical techno-perception” seeks to examine the impact of the digital in medicine by studying the role of pedagogical technologies in how doctors learn the skills of their profession. It focuses on the centuries-old skill of physical examination; a sensing of the body, through the body. Increasingly medical students are learning these skills away from the bedside, through videos, simulated models and in laboratories.

My research team will interrogate how learning with these technologies impacts on how doctors learn to sense bodies. Through the rich case of doctors-in-training the study addresses a key challenge in social scientific scholarship regarding how technologies, particularly those digital and virtual, are implicated in bodily, sensory knowing of the world. Our research takes a historically-attuned comparative anthropology approach, advancing the social study of medicine and medical education research in three new directions. First, a team of three ethnographers will attend to both spectacular and mundane technologies in medical education, recognising that everyday learning situations are filled with technologies old and new. Second, it offers the first comparative social study of medical education with fieldwork in three materially and culturally different settings in Western and Eastern Europe, and West Africa.

Finally, the study brings historical and ethnographic research of technologies closer together, with a historian conducting oral histories and archival research at each site. Findings will have impact in the social sciences and education research by advancing understanding of how the digital and other technologies are implicated in skills learning. The study will develop novel digital-sensory methodologies and boldly, a new theory of techno-perception. These academic contributions will have practical relevance by improving the training of doctors in digital times.

Contact: Assist. Prof. Dr. Anna Harris Department of Technology and Society Studies, Maastricht University Maastricht, The Netherlands

Principal Investigator, Making Clinical Sense (ERC Starting Grant) Global Young Academy

Further links: blog, personal website and university page Recently published: “Embodiment” in Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology


LIVING CELL TECHNOLOGIES OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

I will be starting an ethnography in the next year or so, focusing on Living Cell Technologies of Australia and New Zealand, and their clinical trials of porcine islet transplants for Parkinson’s Disease and for Type 1 Diabetes. I want to look at the experiences of transplant recipients; how do they experience living with animal cells in their bodies? What is the meaning of the species barrier, and of species integrity, in an age of xenotransplantation?

If there is anybody else doing research along similar lines or intending to, please contact:

Dr Anne Lorraine Scott
Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Canterbury
Christchurch 8140
New Zealand
Email: A.Scott@canterbury.ac.nz
Tel: +64 3 3694376

Research interests: mental health; health technologies; xenotransplantation


NEUROSCIENCE AND SOCIETY GROUP – BRAIN AND MENTAL HEALTH LABORATORY, MONASH UNIVERSITY, AUSTRALIA

Neuroscience promises to revolutionise our ability to treat and prevent mental illness and neurological disorders with powerful new technologies that allow us to monitor and manipulate brain activity, cognition and behaviour. The use of novel neurotechnologies also raises important ethical and social challenges. The study of these issues is called Neuroethics. Insights from neuroscience research may radically shift the way that we understand human behaviour, challenging our notions of free will and responsibility, agency and identity, increasing our use of coercive treatments and a reliance on medical or invasive neurological “cures” at the expense of effective public health policies.

It may also change people’s attitudes towards people with mental illness or behavioural disorders (e.g. stigma and discrimination) or people’s understanding of their own behaviour (e.g. self-efficacy, identity). It is critical that we consider the potential impact of neuroscientific knowledge and technologies if we are to realise its promise. Failure to do so may prompt restrictive legislative and regulatory responses that undermine research, or lead to public health policies or treatments that produce unanticipated harm.

The Neuroscience and Society Group at Monash conducts interdisciplinary research to translate neuroscience research into ethical treatments, social initiatives and public health policies that maximise benefit for all members of society, while minimising any harms. It is funded through several competitive government grants and fellowships such as the ARC (Australian Research Council), and NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council).

Key Approaches
Neuroethics and neurolaw
Historical and public policy analyses
Qualitative research methods (e.g. interviews, focus groups and ethnographies)
Quantitative surveys, contrastive vignettes and behavioural choice experiments
Media analysis, including online and social media
Virtual reality and smartphone apps
Community engagement, patient/client advisory groups and co-design

Members
Adrian Carter (Research Stream Leader): Senior Research Fellow
Ella Dilkes-Frayne: Research Fellow
Andrew Dawson: PhD Student
Tony Barnett: PhD Student
Dan Myles: PhD Student
Alison Cullen: Psych Student
Cassandra Thompson: DPsych Student

For further information of current projects and members see our website: http://bmh.org.au/research-divisions/mental-health/policy-neuroethics


TOWARDS MORE EFFECTIVE RENEWABLE ENERGY TRANSITIONS IN KOREA

Team: Associate Professor Richard Hindmarsh (Griffith School of Environment and Centre for Public Policy and Governance, Griffith University), and Dr Hyomin Kim (Ulsan National Institute of S&T, Korea).

The project addresses the big policy challenge of meeting Korea’s policy commitment to generate more renewable energy (and reduce fossil fuel energy technologies) alongside nuclear energy. It focuses on the most viable renewable technology for expansion, wind energy, which, however, can attract significant local social conflict, especially when expanding its operations and siting. The project goal is to investigate how to improve wind farm siting processes to enhance the effectiveness of renewable energy transitions to better adapt to climate change around questions of adequate community engagement around wind farms in Korea.

This is because several factors can retard development. Although obvious benefits are posed for low-carbon transitions, significant change and disruption typically impacts on local communities. In a policy learning approach, the project is conducting research on (i) wind energy development, policy, and planning, particularly regarding community engagement around wind farm siting; (ii) associated issues of local social acceptance of wind energy; and (iii) what policy lessons can be generated for more effective renewable energy transitions in Korea in, especially in response to climate change.


RETHINKING THE PUBLIC INQUIRY ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND  ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE

Funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Scheme) (2017-2019: project DP170101440)

Researcher: Associate Professor Richard Hindmarsh, Griffith School of Environment, and Centre for Public Policy and Governance, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

Research Fellow 2017: Sara Alidoust, Griffith School of Environment

This project addresses the growing public policy problem of the participatory adequacy of the big public inquiry as an authoritative governmental ‘advisory mechanism’, here, on controversial science, technology, and environmental change or impact. Case studies are past inquiries on the regulation of environmental release of genetically engineered organisms, and wind farms, and contemporary ones of coal seam gas development and siting and the 2015 South Australian Royal Commission on the Nuclear Fuel Cycle. The aims of the project are to:

(1) Identify contemporary public participatory weaknesses in processes and practices of the Australian traditional big public inquiry at national and state levels on controversial S&T and the environment.

(2) Explore enhanced public participatory conduits (practices and methods) of new governance to deepen the capacity of the big science, technology, and environment (STE) inquiry to engage with complex issues of controversial S&T and the environment.

New governance is this case is informed by interrelated principles of good governance and environmental sustainability that include policy legitimacy and effectiveness in terms of fairer and more representative public engagement based on broad and diverse social inclusion, public trust, transparency (or openness), accountability, relevant information, intra- and inter-generational equity, accessible communication, and policy coherency and competence to address multiple stakeholder concerns more effectively and legitimately.


NEGOTIATING NUCLEAR SAFETY

Researcher: Dr William J. Kinsella is Professor in the Department of Communication at North Carolina State University, where he is also affiliated with interdisciplinary programs in Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media; Environmental Sciences; Genetic Engineering and Society; and Science, Technology and Society (STS).

The project is directed toward a book-length manuscript applying perspectives from the fields of Communication, Rhetoric, and Science and Technology Studies to questions of risk and democratic governance in the field of civilian nuclear energy. Negotiation serves as a key analytical concept for the project in three ways.

First, although industry actors and regulatory authorities often describe nuclear safety as a “non-negotiable” principle, it is in fact a constantly negotiated accomplishment. For example, issues of cost or profitability are often in direct tension with issues of safety, resulting in complex negotiations between nuclear plant operators and regulators. Examining the response of the US nuclear industry and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) to the 2011 disaster at Fukushima Daiichi, I have identified a number of significant examples. My chapter in The Fukushima Effect (Richard Hindmarsh & Rebecca Priestly, 2016) considers another example, a negotiation between the USNRC, the industry, and critical public stakeholders regarding notions of confidence in the long-term storage of highly radioactive used nuclear fuel.

Second, and more metaphorically, nuclear system designers, operators, and regulators must negotiate a difficult path through uncertain landscapes of risk. Formal methods of risk analysis, informal modes of expert judgment, and institutional checks and balances are essential to that pathfinding, but can never be fully adequate. My project seeks to understand “the limits of representation” associated not only with formal, quantitative risk analysis, but also with broader linguistic representations of risk.

Third, applications of nuclear energy are negotiations with nature, involving intervention in fundamental physical processes of enormous power. Getting those negotiations right can be a matter of life and death. Recent scholarship in “new materialism” is helping me conceptualize this negotiation between human agency and recalcitrant natural phenomena.

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster has highlighted all three of these modes of negotiation, but responses have varied across national contexts. In some cases, nations have withdrawn from new nuclear construction or from embarking on programs previously envisioned. Other nations are maintaining their commitment to nuclear energy, but finding it increasingly challenged by issues of escalating cost, public distrust, and competition from emerging alternative energy sources. However, some of the most ambitious nuclear programs are located in the Asia-Pacific region, in nations including China, India, and South Korea.

Nuclear energy is also an increasingly globalized system, linking materials, technologies, knowledge, organizations, institutions, people, and risks across traditional boundaries. I believe these circumstances make the topic of nuclear energy particularly relevant to the APSTSN community, while the community’s work provides a valuable scholarly context for understanding the issues involved.


 

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