San Diego Workshop 2015

Geographies, Value(s) and Transitions

Date: 23rd-24th March 2015
Location: University of California, San Diego
Organizers:Charles Thorpe and Martha Lampland


‘Science’ – or research and innovation (R&I) – is increasingly tasked with kick-starting the stagnant economy, underpinning a new techno-economic paradigm, while tackling multiple, overlapping global challenges (e.g. climate change, food security, low-carbon transition). However, the cultural and political role of R&I, the political economy of its funding and the impacts of technoscientific innovation are all highly contested. How R&I can and do contribute to economic growth and solving global challenges are not clearly understood and, conversely, it is clear that the current dominant policy understanding of these relations is inadequate. The changing relations of scientific research, innovation and political economy are thus a key site for the investigation of the future of technoscience in terms of its contribution to socio-economic development and the public accountability of scientists and policymakers.

While the 1st and 2nd Workshop in this ongoing series focused on analysis of the multiple crises and their interaction with the changing political economy of R&I, this 3rd Annual Workshop seeks critical understandings of the (re-)construction of new socio-technical settlements. In particular, the Workshop will focus on three key and overlapping issues for R&I, namely.

Diverse geographies: the geographies of R&I are changing significantly. Globalization of R&I continues apace – with the emergence of global innovation networks, international science collaborations and mass, distributed open innovation and open science initiatives – even as it contradicts the national focus of orthodox science policy. These complex geographies illustrate the irreducible local differences that render any taken-for-granted geography of R&I increasingly redundant, if not actively misleading. The participation of R&I in such globalized and materialized networks, including global value and/or commodity chains, is emerging anew as a key site of its influence in shaping the 21st century.

Value, values, (e)valuation: a specifically neoliberal globalization may still be mired in crisis, challenging the continuing IP-intensive model of science-based innovation that has dominated in recent years. Yet, notwithstanding these trends in the broader political economy, the privatisation and commodification of science is proceeding at an undiminished, if not accelerated, pace. This conjunction of intense social demands upon R&I, deepening integration of R&I into the core of capitalist accumulation and a context of fluid, profound and systemic contestation raises multiple key questions regarding the relationship(s) between R&I and ‘value’ in its many guises: capitalist (‘value’); normative and social (‘values’); and practical tools of measurement (evaluation).

Socio-material transitions: finally, the themes of geographies and values converge on the key contemporary issue and challenge for R&I, namely their contribution to broader socio-material system transitions to more ‘sustainable’ (ecological, social, financial etc.) social formations. A critical analysis of this process, however, must explore how this process and these discourses are being co-produced with trajectories of R&I and what social forms they are actually constructing, with which winners and which losers.

This workshop will thus seek to address four broad questions:

  1. What are the changing global geographies of techno-science?
  2. How are knowledge, research, innovation and higher education being valorized, valued and evaluated, around the world?
  3. How is research and innovation being integrated into and formed by global commodity and/or value chains?
  4. What roles are (‘responsible’) research and innovation playing in the mobilization, stalling and trajectories of sustainable transitions? If you have other ideas for papers relevant to the workshop then please do get in touch.

Workshop Programme


Historical Perspectives on the Political Economy of Science

  • Tal Golan (UCSD, US), Fin-de-siecle scientific utopia and colonialism and their place in the Zionist project
  • Theodora Dryer (UCSD, US) The housewife problem: The production of an algorithm in mid-century American and its legacy
  • Mark Robinson (DePaul University, US), Micro-histories of life science innovation


  • Philip Mirowski (Notre Dame University, US), What is science critique? Lessig, Latour, and …?

Responsible Innovation and ‘Green Capitalism’

  • Julia Hahn (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany), Responsible research and innovation: Business-as-usual or opening-up the relationship between technology, science and society?
  • Luigi Pellizzoni (University of Trieste, Italy), Old wine in a new bottle? Problematizing responsible research and innovation
  • David Tyfield (Lancaster University, UK), Green Keynesianism after neoliberalism: Bringing the (entrepreneurial) state back in?

The Political Economy of Global Health

  • Susann Borras (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark), Transformative governance? Product development partnerships for neglected diseases
  • Samantha Vanderslott (UCL, UK), The globalized policy development of neglected tropical diseases
  • Katie Kenney (UCSD, US) The biopolitics of global health: Life and death in neoliberal time

Governance, Institutions and Innovation

  • Yadollah Dadgar (University of Illinois and Beheshty University, US) and Rouholla Nazari (Ferdowsi University) Analyzing the relationship between good governance and innovation in MENA and OECD: A comparatives study
  • Nathan Charlier and Pierre Delvenne (University of Liège, Belgium), Actors valuing science in neoliberal science regimes
  • Kean Birch (York University, Canada), Rentiership in the bio-economy: The ontological and epistemological transformation of capitalism
  • Robert Bridi (York University, Canada), The political economy of biotechnology I in agriculture: Review and critique of the recent academic literature


Discourse and the Framing of Technology and Innovation

  • Sebastian M. Pfotenhauer (MIT, US), Imaginaries of innovation: Political cultures, national visions of development, and the “MIT model” in four global MIT partnerships
  • Brynna Jacobson (UCSD, US) Science policy discourse on geoengineering
  • Frederic Bauer (LundUniversity, Sweden) A critical perspective on technology and innovation in sociotechnical transitions research


  • Mary Walshok (UCSD, US), The role of civic culture in regional innovation outcomes: The San Diego case

Regional Strategies of Innovation

  • Naubahar Sharif (The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology: Case study in entrepreneurial university-led knowledge based economic development
  • Elisa Around (Clark University, US), Linked geographies: Tying the regionalization of science, technology and innovation in Colombia to revenue from natural resource extraction
  • Dean Curran (University of Calgary, Canada) and David Tyfield (Lancaster, UK), Low-carbon innovation in China and the emergence of risk-class

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