Reflexive governance of emerging technologies: Expert views of genomic applications for climate change adaptation in forestry

Authors: Kristy Myles, University of Calgary, Gwendolyn Blue*, University of Calgary, Debra Davidson, University of Alberta
Topics: Social Theory, Applied Geography
Keywords: Forestry, Genomics, Climate change
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Muses, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Research in STS has emphasized the privileged role of ‘experts’ in technology decision-making, a status that does not always lend itself to beneficial outcomes in application and regulation. First, some research has illustrated the potential for experts to hold a ‘disqualification heuristic,’ leading to a failure to consider the potential for negative outcomes. Second, research has also highlighted the persistent embrace of an ‘information deficit model’ among scientific experts, compromising the potential for effective public engagement, and escalating the potential for resistance. In this study, we share the results of an inquiry into the perspectives of a geographically and disciplinarily diverse sample of experts on the role of genomic assisted tree breeding as an adaptation response to climate change in forestry. Results indicate a high level of variation in enthusiasm for the technology, which can be associated with divergent perceptions of uncertainty, among other things. All respondents held information deficit models of the public, although we also find a variety of nuanced perspectives within this frame. While STS scholarship often professes about the subjectivity of expertise, many depictions of 'experts' nonetheless tend to be relatively determinist and one-dimensional. What our research illustrates is the highly individualized and unique reflexive processing among a sample of experts working in the same areaHighlighting the subjective and nuanced side of expertise, this study offers a deeper understanding of the role of experts in technology decision-making, and provides avenues for a more constructive and inclusive dialogue on technological applications for anticipatory environmental change.

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