science, democracy, and civic life

(Arlington, VA) After a day discussing Civic Science at the NSF, I am inclining to this conceptual model:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 2.37.46 PM

Note that none of these circles is conterminous with any other. I believe, for example, that one can be a good citizen in a context (such as a church) that is not and should not be democratic. I believe that some valuable science is not done in public or with the public, although it must be justified to the public if they are asked to pay for it. And I believe that there are worthy aspects of civic life that are not scientific. Nevertheless, the three circles overlap, and given our particularly dire problems–matters like the climate crisis–a democratic civic science must be expanded.

See also is all truth scientific truth? and is science republican (with a little r)?.

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
This entry was posted in civic theory. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Harry Boyte

    Your diagram is helpful. John Spencer, founding director of
    the Delta Center, the partner of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship in
    developing the concept of civic science, added the helpful comment that this
    should be seen as “three dimensional,” with an axis of scale (from
    the local to the grand challenges), and different tasks in different contexts.

    But there is also another angle of vision, more a “movement”
    than simply a set of ideals and practices.

    Fred Krontz, director of the program in Science and
    Technology Studies at NSF also put it very well on the panel yesterday morning:
    this is a movement for democratizing science.

    To elaborate a bit — civic science can be seen as a
    movement to democratize science (perhaps in every form), foregrounding science’s
    social, cooperative practices and values and making them more explicit –
    challenging the idea that science if “value neutral; civic science is a
    movement to repair the now largely forgotten but once robust scientific purpose
    entwining domains: to advance democracy as well as knowledge; and civic science
    is a movement which, as it incorporates civic and democratic practices into
    science and the identities and practices of science, can be an immense force
    for democracy’s “next stage,” sustained foundations of human agency,
    civic empowerment. Harry Boyte, Director, Center for Democracy and Citizenship