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Mapping Controversies on Science for Politics

Final Report Summary - MACOSPOL (Mapping controversies on science for politics)

Experimenting news tools for exploring and representing public debates on scientific and technological issues!

MACOSPOL is a joint research enterprise that gathers scholars in science, technology and society across Europe. Its goal was to devise a collaborative platform to help students, professionals and citizens in mapping out scientific and technical controversies.

The platform has been tested with potential users. It is now freely available for people, whether policy-makers, journalists, NGOs, citizens, interested to map and explore controversies. Users will find on the platform:
- A collection of useful resources and digital tools, along with tutorials to use them,
- Case studies to see example of achievable results, as well as to explore particular issues,
- Literature on social theories underlying controversy mapping.
The navigation on the platform is organised so as to enable users to search these resources according to their own way of thinking and interests.

Potential impact

Technical democracy requires spaces and instruments to facilitate public involvement in technological and scientific issues. Such democratic equipment is yet to be assembled, even though much theoretical research has been done to envision its articulation. At the same time, digital innovations are providing an increasing number of new instruments and forums that can be used to promote public participation.

MACOSPOL has been set up to facilitate the connection between these two developments, allowing the best research in science, technology and society to ally with the best research on web-based tools.

Societal implications of the project

In modern societies, collective life is assembled through the superposition of scientific and technical controversies. The inequities of growth, the ecological crisis, the bioethical dilemma and all other major contemporary issues occur today as tangles of humans and non-human actors, politics and science, morality and technology. Because of this growing hybridisation complexity, getting involved in public life is becoming more and more difficult. To find their way in this uncertain universe and to participate in its assembly, citizens need to be equipped with tools to explore and visualise the complexities of scientific and technical debates. MACOSPOL's goal is to gather and disseminate such tools through the scientific investigation and the creative use of digital technologies.

MACOSPOL final results in a nutshell

1. Surveying and evaluating the world offer of tools for mapping scientific controversy and supporting participation in technological democracy.
2. Building a portfolio of case-study analysis in controversy mapping at different levels of elaboration (undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. level).
3. Identifying the drawbacks of each of the collected tools (expensive proprietary software, lack of compatibility, users' unfriendly interfaces...) in order to envision their overcoming or to find alternatives.
4. Exploring how design and geography can improve the visual performance (information management, readability, second degree manipulation, transportability...) of the representing equipment for technical democracy.
5. Testing the political relevance of the platform as a 'quasi parliament' capable of hosting and shaping the actual debates about science and technology.

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