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Katie Barnhill – Public Engagement: Missing the Mark? | GES Colloquium

January 16 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Virtual Event

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Public Engagement: Missing the Mark? In-Person

Katie Barnhill, PhD, Senior Research Scholar, GES Center, NC State | Profile | Google Scholar

Scholars and funders alike have increasingly recognized engagement as an important dimension of innovation, but is engagement accomplishing what we think it is?

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Emerging environmental biotechnologies such as gene drives have often been called for to respond to wicked environmental problems, including applications that have the potential to protect land and water (pesticide reduction), species protection, and human health. As gene drives are advancing at a rapid pace, myriad STS scholars have called for broad and inclusive community, stakeholder, and public engagement practices as a critical part of the epistemic landscape that should shape the innovation of these technologies. But in practice, how have these engagement practices contributed meaningfully to the responsible and just innovation of gene drives, particularly in the context of gene drives for vector control?

Drawing on an analysis of 73 documents related to more than 20 projects, groups, and institutions that have conducted some form of engagement about gene drives for vector control, we demonstrate that the vast majority of engagement activities’ outcomes have minimal measurable impact on gene drive innovation. In fact, most engagement outcomes (1) feed directly into further engagement scholarship and practice or (2) measure and/or encourage community acceptance of the technology. A minority of our findings included outcomes that were intended to shape governance or innovation practices themselves. If engagement practices that are normatively described as relational and co-productive, what do these results say about true politics of involvement in shaping shared futures?

In addition to expanding upon the measured outcomes of these engagement activities, I suggest reasons for why there is such a notable mismatch between what the STS engagement literature calls for and what outcomes are generated from engagement practices. Finally, I offer a potential solution to this mismatch, inviting social scientists and other engagement practitioners to turn the framework of responsible innovation onto ourselves.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Katie Barnhill: Drawing on interdisciplinary fields such as Environmental Science & Policy and Science, Technology, & Society studies, Dr. Barnhill primarily focuses on stakeholder engagement as an important mechanism for the governance of emerging environmental biotechnologies. She has worked on the governance and social science of biotechnology projects that have included applications such as invasive species management, species restoration, sustainable agricultural pest management, and public health. Dr. Barnhill has international research experience, has managed international research teams, and has experience collaborating with Indigenous community leaders in the U.S.

GES Colloquium is jointly taught by Drs. Jen Baltzegar and Dawn Rodriguez-Ward, who you may contact with any class-specific questions. Colloquium will be held in person in the 1911 Building, room 129, and live-streamed via Zoom.

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January 16
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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1911 Building, Room 129 (North Campus)
10 Current Dr.
Raleigh, NC United States
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